Becoming a new Atheist?

Jonny Scaramanga (whom I once interviewed) is a former Christian fundamentalist who left behind his faith after having realized that the “education” he had received was nothing more than a brain washing.

First of all, I want to say I really like him and his generally respectful attitude towards people not sharing his current worldview.

So I was somewhat troubled after having read his last blog post.

Some of my Christian readers like me because, they say, I am an atheist but not a New Atheist. I appreciate their support, but I think I might actually be one of those nasty Gnu Atheists. I think I should clarify my position.

I’m thinking about all this because I’ve been asked to review a book called Godbuster: Banishes all known gods. I haven’t read it yet, and I’ll reserve judgement until I have, but at first glance, I’m not sure how a book like this is going to be useful.

When I stopped being a Christian, I was not happy about it. There are a great many Christian tropes about atheists: they’re just too proud to submit to God; they’re just angry at God; they’re just too selfish to stop sinning; they hate God. None of those were true of me at the time. My heart was not “hardened against God”. I really wanted to believe. I just couldn’t.

Photo by David Shankbone. Source: Wikimedia Commons

That’s not the case anymore. I like the universe without God in it a lot more than I liked it when I thought there was an Almighty watching over it. I don’t think there is a God (or gods, or godesses), and I’m glad about that. The idea of worship now seems servile and unpleasant to me. But I’m happy for those who want to engage in it to do so.

 

Overall, I think religion is a net source of harm in the world. If religion were wiped from the planet, it would be no loss. If there are good reasons to be moral (and I think there are) then we don’t need religion to tell us what to do. There are thousands of people who find meaning in life without religion, and I do not think that’s because we are better or more intelligent than religious people. I’m confident anyone can find meaning without religion. I think the truth claims of religion are false, and that the benefits of religion can also be achieved without a religious framework. Religion is unnecessary.

I freely concede, however, that for many individual adherents faith is a net positive. Here I disagree with those atheists who think that religion is bad for everybody, and those who consider their private faith a positive thing are simply delusional. I think there are many people of faith who gain a great deal from their religion without it doing them or those around them much harm. The atheist counter-argument is that belief in God is necessarily irrational, and behaving irrationally is always harmful. I’m not so sure about this.  One of the lessons of psychology is that we pretty much all hold some irrational beliefs, and some of them do us some good. For another, I’m not sure all religious belief is irrational. The kind of religion criticised on this blog is irrational, and to the extent that religion is irrational, it must be opposed. But there are religious believers who accept the findings of science, who behave logically and rationally, and who simply think that religion and science are non-overlapping magisteria. I don’t accept their arguments, but that’s fine. They’re not forcing me to share their faith. Fundamentalism, of course, makes empirical, scientifically testable truth claims all the time: miracles happen; prayers are answered; the universe is <10,000 years old; a catastrophic flood ca. 4,000 years ago destroyed almost all life. These empirical falsehoods are used to bolster a belief system which does harm to its adherents and those around them. But that’s not true of all Christianity, much less all religion.

Indeed, Dawkins and Sam Harris, et al, don’t really take on these more intellectually defensible forms of Christianity in their books, partly because their arguments are much less easy to dismiss than the ludicrous claims of fundamentalists. Sam Harris comes closest, by arguing that liberal Christians don’t do enough to oppose fundamentalists, and that by sharing some beliefs with the fundamentalists, they lend some legitimacy to the harmful beliefs of the extremists. This is a pretty lousy argument. It’s true that far too many Christians and Muslims are too quiet about the extremists in their midst, but it’s not true of all of them. In an epic post called “Why young-Earth creationism needs to be killed with fire“, the Christian Fred Clark absolutely storms into the problems of fundamentalism. The best feminist blogs I read are written by Christians too.

As for the latter part of the argument (that liberal religion shares beliefs with fundamentalism), well, I too share many beliefs with fundamentalists. I think that the world is round, that drinking water is a good idea, that North America is a continent, and that murder is bad. Sure, these aren’t religious beliefs, but I have significant overlap with the crazies on matters of reality, of philosophy, and even morality, and this does not make it difficult for me to part ways with them where they head off into the land of the unbelievable. The fact that the mainstream believers share some beliefs with the dangerous ones is not necessarily a problem.

So while at the moment I think religion does more harm than good, I don’t think that’s a necessary truth. And, obviously, a world with no religion in it could easily be a terrible place. I think religion can be reformed so the harmful parts are removed. This is where I part ways with many New Atheists. I also think this is much more likely to succeed (especially in the short term) than getting rid of religion altogether. Asking people to reject religion wholesale is asking them to make a radical transformation in their worldview and identity. Not many people are willing to do this. On the other hand, convincing them that it’s perfectly possible to be a believer who accepts science, embraces LGBT people, and actively pursues social justice is comparatively realistic (lots of people already do it).

So why Godbuster? I suspect I’ll agree with it, because I don’t find the gods of any religion plausible. But so what? I don’t care what people think about Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, or any other deity. I care that all humans have equal rights, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, or geographical location. I care that we pursue policies that reduce social inequality. I care that we do everything we can to halt climate change. I care that children have the access to education that will empower them to make good, informed choices about how to live their lives. If people feel inspired to pursue these things because of their faith, that’s fine by me.

Do you disagree with this post? Good, I’m still working out my thoughts on this subject. I composed it last week, and re-reading it before posting, I find that I’m already mentally writing a counter-argument. I think I’ll add to these thoughts next time.

 

The horrors of a fundamentalist universe

 

To begin my response by something positive, I must say I admire Jonny’s humility and his acceptance of being possibly wrong.

I completely share Jonny’s indignation against Christians despising atheists and homosexuals, and this is what pushed me to write the parable of the “Good Godless Gay” where I used pretty much the same picture he showed towards the top of his post.

I agree that there are many atheists who leave Conservative Evangelical Christianity because they are basically good person and can no longer worship a being who will eternally torture billions of his creatures, for sins he himself bounded to commit, having cursed them with a sinful nature.

So I am sure that a nice and respectful atheist honorably defending his or her intellectual views is far closer to Christ than a nasty fundamentalist defending his “truth” in a heinous way.

 

Likewise, I entirely sympathize with Jonny viewing a godless universe far more optimistic and joyful than a fundamentalist universe where most humans will be eternally tortured for sins the Almighty Himself doomed them to commit.

hell

In another post, I explained why the cognitive dissonance faced by Conservative Evangelicals is far greater than that hardcore materialists are facing.

 

What is the “harmfulness” of religion?

 

Jonny further wrote:

Overall, I think religion is a net source of harm in the world. If religion were wiped from the planet, it would be no loss. If there are good reasons to be moral (and I think there are) then we don’t need religion to tell us what to do. There are thousands of people who find meaning in life without religion, and I do not think that’s because we are better or more intelligent than religious people. I’m confident anyone can find meaning without religion. I think the truth claims of religion are false, and that the benefits of religion can also be achieved without a religious framework. Religion is unnecessary.

 

But what is this sentence supposed to mean? That 100% of all religions are harmful and ought to disappear? I’m sure this is certainly not what Jonny thinks about that matter. What he probably means is that the majority (perhaps more than 80%) of religious movements have (by and large) a harmful influence of society and if ALL religious were to be blotted out, the world would be a better place.

But if it WERE true, and social engineering were morally permissible, why should we not just combat the 80% harmful religions and leave the remaining 20% alone?

 

The only argument of the New Atheists is that tolerating them would inevitably lead to condone heinous fundamentalism. But Jonny himself doesn’t buy this argument:

Sam Harris comes closest, by arguing that liberal Christians don’t do enough to oppose fundamentalists, and that by sharing some beliefs with the fundamentalists, they lend some legitimacy to the harmful beliefs of the extremists. This is a pretty lousy argument. It’s true that far too many Christians and Muslims are too quiet about the extremists in their midst, but it’s not true of all of them. In an epic post called “Why young-Earth creationism needs to be killed with fire“, the Christian Fred Clark absolutely storms into the problems of fundamentalism. The best feminist blogs I read are written by Christians too.

So it would be great if Jonny and his fellow secularists (I am not employing this word in a negative sense) began to distinguish between the diverse religious movements with respect to their harm and benefits.

Perhaps the world would be better off with NO religion at all, but it would be EVEN better off with only tolerant and progressive religions preaching a compassion grounded in transcendence.

 

The grounding of morality in a purely material cosmos

 

The following sentence is particularly interesting.

I think the truth claims of religion are false, and that the benefits of religion can also be achieved without a religious framework. Religion is unnecessary.

IF we already know that there are basic moral values such as “maximizing the pleasure and minimizing the pain of the greatest number”, I agree we don’t necessarily need religion for achieving this, even though I believe that humanist and humanitarian religions (yes, this is not an oxymoron🙂 ) can achieve an enormous contribution to this goal.

But why should we believe in the existence of objective moral facts identical to increasing happiness and diminishing suffering?
To paraphrase the great enlightenment philosopher David Hume, how can we derive the moral “ought” from the factual “is” without begging the question?
Of course, theism has also problems regarding the foundation of morality, such as the famous Euthyphron-Dilemma: “is rape bad because the gods disapprove of it, or do they disapprove of it because it is wrong?”.

While it would be foolish for me to try to answer this age-old problem in some sentences, I think that Reductive Materialism (RM) faces an even more formidable challenge. According to RM, everything which exists is identical to a bunch of energetic particles in interaction. But to what clusters of atoms or molecules with a precise location in space and time the moral value “It is always wrong to rape a woman.” can be identified to?

306_DNA

I don’t see how you can do that without completely distorting the meaning of the moral sentence. Thus yes, you don’t need to be a theist to be a good person striving for the Good. But you can run into serious problems if you try to justify this moral goodness in an objectively mindless universe.

Even if they have their own sets of problems, worldviews such as Theism and Platonism provide us with a world where objective morality (moral laws not followed by “if…”) are much more at home than in a thoughtless clump of stuff.

 

None of my arguments are uncontroversial, of course, but they should lead the New Atheists to a much deeper intellectual humility while criticizing the opinions of their opponents.

 

Progressing religion

Finally, Jonny wrote a fantastic sentence I want to emphasize.

So while at the moment I think religion does more harm than good, I don’t think that’s a necessary truth. And, obviously, a world with no religion in it could easily be a terrible place. I think religion can be reformed so the harmful parts are removed. This is where I part ways with many New Atheists.

 

Actually, progressive Catholic theologian Hans Küng wrote something very similar several years ago: religion can cause violence, injustice and oppression but it DOES not have to.

As a Christian, I certainly believe that a religion grounded on the message of Jesus can only have positive repercussions on society, if you seriously take the thought that every human being is unconditionally loved by a Heavenly Father.

jesus-social-justice2

While the Religious Right is utterly obsessed by homosexuality, they completely lose of sight that it was only condemned by very few verses in the Bible, so even by presupposing Biblical inerrancy, their priorities are inexcusable.

 

Conclusion: upholding a tolerant and open society.

 

I am well aware that by having written what I did, I am going to infuriate quite a few Conservatives and liberals alike.

Yet my intention is not to provoke a heroic battle of epic proportions, but to push people in both camps to reflect more profoundly about their own assumptions and start realizing that the others are not as crazy as they thought, to paraphrase the title of a great book of progressive Evagelical theologian Randal Rauser.

Evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt gave us also important insights into why and how the culture war is maintained, along with its lovelessness.

It is my true hope we could all (a bit) contribute to build up a society where one’s political opponents are no longer view as loathsome foes but as people we happen to disagree with on various grounds.

I’m infinitely far from being inerrant and know all too well that many of my ideas are worthy of being criticized. But if I can only positively inspire four persons reading that, I would have achieved my goal.

 

 

90 thoughts on “Becoming a new Atheist?

  1. IF we already know that there are basic moral values such as “maximizing the pleasure and minimizing the pain of the greatest number”, I agree we don’t necessarily need religion for achieving this, even though I believe that humanist and humanitarian religions (yes, this is not an oxymoron🙂 ) can achieve an enormous contribution to this goal.

    But why should we believe in the existence of objective moral facts identical to increasing happiness and diminishing suffering?

    Why one “should believe” this or that is not a good question IMO (it also relies on the presupposition that you can choose your beliefs, which is incredibly problematic to begin with). Much better questions would be *what* do you actually believe when it comes to moral propositions and *why* do you believe it. No matter what your views on moral ontology and epistemology are, it won´t change some key facts:
    a) some moral propositions make intutive sense to an overwhelming majority of people, independent of their cultural backgrounds (e.g., the golden rule).
    b) many moral propositions however absolutely do depend on cultural backgrounds and what can appear to be *obviously* noble and right in culture A can appear to be *obviously* wicked and false in culture B (e.g. promoting freedom of speech, including the freedom to doubt, criticize or even mock religious ideas).
    c) while the overwhelming majority of humans are capable of making moral judgments, and capable of reaching a virtually unanimous consensus on many moral propositions, there are also individuals that lack this capacity in part or even completely, antisocial personality disorders and psychopathy are rare but real, and need to be explained.
    And so on and so forth – *explaining* why this is, is IMHO much more interesting (and productive) then speculating about what the nature of moral propositions exactly is.

    I think that Reductive Materialism (RM) faces an even more formidable challenge. According to RM, everything which exists is identical to a bunch of energetic particles in interaction. But to what clusters of atoms or molecules with a precise location in space and time the moral value “It is always wrong to rape a woman.” can be identified to?

    Rape involves harm, harm is bad, and I can feel your harm via empathy – add this all up and raping you becomes wrong. What do you suggest as an alternative? And if you suggest that moral propositions can exist independently of minds (which I guess you do based on previous interactions), I´d be really curious *where* these moral propositions exist in your view, *what* their nature is, *how* you become aware of them (and how you distinguish true from false moral propositions) and, most importantly, how you explain the empirical facts that a) there are genuine psychopaths who don´t see anything wrong with rape what-so-ever and cannot be taught otherwise and b) why political propaganda which is aimed at dehumanizing a particular group of people can lead to the effect that men who know that rape is wrong when it comes to their own mothers, sisters and daughters don´t see anything wrong with it when they are raping the “others”.

    Even if they have their own sets of problems, worldviews such as Theism and Platonism provide us with a world where objective morality (moral laws not followed by “if…”) are much more at home than in a thoughtless clump of stuff.

    Really? So killing is always wrong? No “if” involved at all?
    So you disagree with the RCC that a war can possibly be “just”? It was absolutely wrong for the allied forces to stop Nazi Germany for example?
    You also think that law enforcement agents should under NO circumstances EVER be allowed to use deadly force? You also think that an abortion is not permissible under any circumstances even if the viability of the fetus is = 0% and the pregnancy would certainly kill the mother?
    Unless you can affirm all of those questions – your “objective moral laws” are absolutely followed by an “if”, even if you don´t like that.

  2. Interesting article.

    The problem I have with Jonny’s article (Which was itself, I think, pretty good) is the idea that without religion, humanity would simply become good, or at least become better, and that religion is a huge yoke on the neck of the species. He dosn’t say this, per se, but it’s a fairly common outlook amont athiests.

    This is overly simplistic, and neglects the neurological reasons we invent religions in the first place. It also neglects the rather poor track record expressly athiest societies have had in the 20th century. (As opposed to expressly neutral countries, which have done ok, and theocracies, which have done pretty badly)

    I also take issue with the ideas of ideological purity such things bring about. If I’m not free to believe in God, is my kid allowed to have an imaginary friend? Am I allowed to listen to music that has ideas that have not been sanitized for my protection? Is truth truth, or is it only truth if it’s been vetted by The State? Better not to open that can of worms.

    Your idea about encourating the ‘good’ religions and discouraging the ‘bad’ ones is interesting, however. One of the perils of ‘all religions are equaly valid’ is that it tends to give undue influence to open scams as opposed to venerable faiths. The wolves used the sheeps own guard dogs against them.

    • This is overly simplistic, and neglects the neurological reasons we invent religions in the first place. It also neglects the rather poor track record expressly athiest societies have had in the 20th century. (As opposed to expressly neutral countries, which have done ok, and theocracies, which have done pretty badly)

      I completely agree re the “simplistic” part. When it comes to the “expressly neutral countries” – “ok” would be an understatement IMO. The countries which are the most neutral / secular when it comes to religion perform *exceptionally* well and also have the highest density of atheists and agnostics in the free world (with “free world” in this context = constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion). I wouldn´t interpret this as atheism causing moral / social behaviour though, it seems to be the other way around – people in countries that “do well” (=high degrees of education, prosperity, happiness and optimism etc. + low degrees of crime, substance abuse, suicide etc,) tend to leave religion behind naturally, without this being promoted in any way.

    • As opposed to expressly neutral countries,

      Which countries do you have in mind here? If they’re the Scandinavian ones, you’re going to have to define what you mean by ‘expressly neutral’. Until recently, we’re talking about countries that had full-blown state-sanctioned churches, regardless of the beliefs of their populace.

      I think a further confounding factor relates to what is meant by ‘religious belief’. It can’t be mere theism.

  3. While the Religious Right is utterly obsessed by homosexuality, they completely lose of sight that it was only condemned by very few verses in the Bible, so even by presupposing Biblical inerrancy, their priorities are inexcusable.

    * The “Religious Right” is accused of being ‘utterly obsessed’ by homosexuality – in a world where opposition to gay marriage can trigger attempts at mass protests (see the Chik-fil-a fiasco), people being fired from their jobs (See the Eich fiasco, and just now someone being fined for just saying in essence ‘yuck’ to a gay kiss (Don Jones). That’s ridiculous.

    * You don’t need to presuppose Biblical inerrancy to condemn same-sex sexual behavior.

  4. Has anybody else noticed that we’re all MASSIVELY missing the point here?

    Religion is something that actually grounds morality. If certain religions are true, then certain things are good and bad whether we want them to be or not. I’m a natural law theorist and a Catholic, and even for folks like me we have things like Mass on Sunday as an obligation, and missing it would certainly NOT be any sort of sin if Catholicism wasn’t actually true. But because I think it is Mass on Sunday now becomes a moralobligation.

    Understanding this, the real question genuinely isn’t “Is everything in this religion leading towards the conclusions I want them to draw towards”, but “Is this religion true?”.

    If the claims the religion makes are true, then everything else is secondary. Doesn’t lead to rights for [x group of people]? That’s a shame, because it will be the true religion whether you like it or not.

    By the way, this:

    While the Religious Right is utterly obsessed by homosexuality, they completely lose of sight that it was only condemned by very few verses in the Bible, so even by presupposing Biblical inerrancy, their priorities are inexcusable

    …is 1) A load of crap and, 2) Terrible logic. If one verse in the Bible said “Oh and by the way, if you don’t dance a jig every February 5th then the world will end”, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s one verse. It’s one damn important verse.

    • Malcolm,

      Part of what I find weird is how the claim seems to be that regarding the Bible as errant makes every problem go away. As if the step is, ‘The moment you believe the Bible contains some errors, any errors, you can just strip out any part you dislike and add in parts you like that weren’t there – even if it contradicts other parts explicitly.’ Progressives can be said to be obsessed with homosexuality from the other direction (in fact, moreso, given the penchant for firing and punishing anyone who so much as appears to express criticism of same-sex marriage or the like), and while the claim is that there’s not many verses in the bible condemning same-sex sexual behavior, the fact that there are precisely zero verses endorsing it doesn’t seem to matter.

    • Understanding this, the real question genuinely isn’t “Is everything in this religion leading towards the conclusions I want them to draw towards”, but “Is this religion true?”.

      If the claims the religion makes are true, then everything else is secondary. Doesn’t lead to rights for [x group of people]? That’s a shame, because it will be the true religion whether you like it or not.

      Just imagine for the sake of the argument that Allah would be the one true God, Muhammad (piss be upon him) his final prophet and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam and Osama bin Laden the contemporary “scholars” that understood Allah´s will best. Would knowing that make you re-evaluate any of your moral views? Would you really suddenly start believing that Jihad as practiced by groups like Al-Qaeda is a moral duty, good and noble? Or would you rather keep believing that the methods of Al-Qaeda are not morally justifiable, and if God allmighty believes otherwise, then fuck God? If it is the latter, then the question what religion, if any, is actually true, is not very relevant for this issue – it might affect how you spend your sunday mornings, but it won´t change anything that actually matters about your moral convictions.

      • Greetings, good and worthy people of all faiths and none🙂

        I’d like to sidestep the debate – indeed all these debates – and argue that Christians and atheists would do far better to stop all this endless unproductive bloody arguing with each other!

        Instead I tentatively suggest that if we really think Christianity is better than atheism, or vice versa, then we show it to be so by our lives rather than trying to convince each other with our logic.

        That at any rate is the rough thesis of my latest post, http://evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/stop-arguing-with-atheists/. I’d welcome your thoughtful comments there – or here.

        All the best,
        Harvey

        • Hi Harvey,
          I do agree with the views you express in your post to a very large extent.
          You say that arguing about this topic doesn´t accomplish anything because at the end, we still believe what we believed at the beginning anyway.
          There is a lot of truth to this, in the sense that “what a persuasive argument! So God is real after all | So there is no God after all!” are words that have never been uttered by any atheist or theist in any debate ever.

          I think that is because we are talking not about single beliefs here, but rather about belief systems, and these only change either after very extreme experiences (and a debate, no matter how heated, does not belong in this category) or only very gradually, step by step, by giving up one belief after another until the whole system collapses and doesn´t appear plausible anymore (or just significantly less plausible than an alternative belief system).

          But changing some of the minor beliefs that are part of the bigger system is much easier and can easily be accomplished in a debate – persuading an atheist that no, the medieval church didn´t teach that the world is flat or persuading a christian that no, the United States of America were not founded as a Christian nation, is absolutely possible in an online debate. And change enough of the minor beliefs and a major belief might collapse.

          Regarding your claim that showing that it “works” is more effective than any intellectual argument could be – I think you are right, and it reminded me of this quote from Nietzsche “Bessere Lieder müssten sie mir singen, das ich an ihren Erlöser glauben lerne: erlöster müssten mir seine Jünger aussehen!” (rough translation: “His disciples would have to sing better songs and look more like being saved, for me to start believing in their savior” – it doesn´t really work in english though because the german word for “saved” has some additional meanings that the english one doesn´t have, the german “erlöst” also means free / liberated from pain, anxiety etc.)

          • Hi Andy, thanks for this and for your comments on my blog!

            I like the Nietzsche quotation and think there’s a lot of truth in it. Sadly I think that a lot of Christians aren’t very deeply ‘saved’ (by which I’m not talking about heaven and hell). In many cases they’ve simply taken on a new superficial set of beliefs/views and behaviours, but there’s little or no change to heart or attitude.

            I think Nietzsche is perhaps a *little* unfair though – Christianity has arguably produced some pretty good music alongside the dire hymns/choruses! And more seriously, you could argue that salvation in the full sense (redemption, liberation, fully flourishing humanity) is the *end* goal of Christian faith not something you can expect to see at the outset. Nonetheless, if there’s no sign of positive change then you have to question whether there’s any reality to it.

            It seems to me that Christians are both the best and worst adverts for Christianity (as atheists may be for atheism). In my journey towards faith I encountered some wonderful people who seemed to me to embody something of Christ’s goodness and love. But I have also of course met many Christians who display little but bile and bigotry… one such I think you may have just encountered on my blog!!

            I do take your point that these debates can produce some positive outcomes in changing small elements of people’s beliefs. The trouble is that (in my experience at least) they so often end up so antagonistic and bitter that much of the good is undone. But maybe I just don’t like conflict🙂

            Cheers
            Harvey

      • EL – The point isn’t really to convince each other though, at least not immediately. It’s:

        1) To help us articulate and understand our own views.

        2) To get us thinking in a way that may change our opinions on the subject later.

        3) So that people reading the debates who really are undecided can look at both sides of the argument.

        4) Occasionally, to call out dishonesty simply because it is the moral thing to do.

        It’s not all about winning over your immediate opponent all in one day.

      • Hello again Harvey,

        I think Nietzsche is perhaps a *little* unfair though – Christianity has arguably produced some pretty good music alongside the dire hymns/choruses!

        Absolutely. And if I got Nietzsche right (and it´s well possible that I didn´t, expressing himself clearly was absolutely not his strong side😉 ), he didn´t mean singing / songs literally but rather used it as a metaphor for your general attitude towards life.

        Nonetheless, if there’s no sign of positive change then you have to question whether there’s any reality to it.

        It seems to me that Christians are both the best and worst adverts for Christianity (as atheists may be for atheism). In my journey towards faith I encountered some wonderful people who seemed to me to embody something of Christ’s goodness and love. But I have also of course met many Christians who display little but bile and bigotry…

        In my experience (which is very limited because I don´t know that many people that converted to or deconverted from Christianity), this kind of change is rare – those people that converted or deconverted and are wonderful people now, already were wonderful people before, as far as I can tell.
        As I mentioned on your blog, I don´t think that what people do or do not believe about God, changes them for better or for worse, only what they believe about people does (but it is of course possible that a radical change in what you believe about people comes as a consequence of changing your views about God – but I have not encountered such cases in my life).

        I do take your point that these debates can produce some positive outcomes in changing small elements of people’s beliefs. The trouble is that (in my experience at least) they so often end up so antagonistic and bitter that much of the good is undone.

        You absolutely do have a point here. And I think it´s a very good idea to raise that point occasionally because I certainly am more often guilty of promoting such antagonism as I would like, so I (and many others probably as well) can use an occasional friendly reminder of just how futile this antagonism is.
        So, to paraphrase Bill Maher, thanks for being Christ-like and not just a Christian😉.

  5. If it is the latter, then the question what religion, if any, is actually true, is not very relevant for this issue – it might affect how you spend your sunday mornings, but it won´t change anything that actually matters about your moral convictions.

    Whether my views ACTUALLY change or not is irrelevant. It just proves that human beings can be irrational.

    Not that this is a bad question, mind you.

    • Malcolm,

      Whether my views ACTUALLY change or not is irrelevant. It just proves that human beings can be irrational.

      I think it’s worth noting how these questions are tied up in metaphysical views as well. Thomism entails certain things about the Good, and also about God, that limit possibilities regarding what God could command.

      But let’s say that something like the following is true: that God is not goodness itself, but just a supremely powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, immortal being who makes commands arbitrarily. One can argue that, since God is irrelevant to the good in that sense (in fact ‘the good’ is wholly subjective), then there is no moral obligation to follow His commands. Let’s even assume for the sake of argument that there’s no rational obligation to follow His demands without caveat either! Everything is down to individual whim and judgment. God is just another being – He just happens to be powerful. Who cares what He thinks?

      The problem at that point is that while you’re now dealing with a God of no intrinsic moral significance, you ARE dealing with an omniscient, omnipotent being. If this being says ‘the world will be infinitely better off if you commit to the global jihad’, and you both trust this being and desire an infinitely better off world – or even just an overall better off world – then it would seem following His commands makes supreme sense. Of course, if you find global jihad so repugnant that you’d rather die – and, I suppose, be tortured for all eternity if it’s that kind of deity – then it makes sense to do that as well. And, given that, again, the God in question is as powerful as He is… well, you can be sure you won’t be fooling Him. Or, for that matter, doing something He doesn’t ultimately permit, if He doesn’t respect your will.

    • Hi Malcolm,

      Whether my views ACTUALLY change or not is irrelevant. It just proves that human beings can be irrational.

      They certainly can be irrational. However, again assuming that God exists and that God is like Abdullah Yusuf Azzam and Osama bin Laden imagined him to be, would it then really be irrational (and / or immoral) to disagree with God on issues such as Jihad?
      I don´t think it would be. Obeying a command that seems to be absolutely evil to you, with the justification that God must know better than you do and what appears absolutely evil to you can in fact be absolutely good, would simply be a form of moral capitulation. An acknowledgment that you are wholly incapable of making moral judgment (if seeing something that is absolutely good as absolutely evil doesn´t mean “wholly incapable of making moral judgments”, then nothing does). But then, whether you are in fact obeying a being that is good instead of a being that is evil, becomes 100% unknowable – you would be just obeying and couldn´t possibly know whether you are obeying good commands or evil ones.

      • I’ll just point out a few errors here.

        Obeying a command that seems to be absolutely evil to you, with the justification that God must know better than you do and what appears absolutely evil to you can in fact be absolutely good, would simply be a form of moral capitulation

        That’s going to depend on what’s meant by something ‘seeming absolutely evil to me’. How does something seem absolutely evil? If it’s personal subjective whim alone, then it hardly matters anyway – subjective whim is no foundation for morality, and one can change their whims. If what’s good and evil is informed by one’s philosophy, metaphysics and religion, then it would seem coming to the conclusion that Bin Laden’s view of Islam is ‘correct’ leaves open the question of whether one’s view about what is or isn’t ‘absolutely evil/good’ would be changing in the process.

        Obeying a command that seems to be absolutely evil to you, with the justification that God must know better than you do and what appears absolutely evil to you can in fact be absolutely good, would simply be a form of moral capitulation.

        Not at all – it would be, at most, intellectual capitulation. ‘Knowing better’ is a reference to intelligence and/or knowledge. And we are entirely comfortable making intellectual capitulations all the time – we trust experts. In this situation, there’s no more authoritative expert than God.

        Nor is being wrong, even completely wrong, about a particular moral question mean that one is completely incapable of making moral judgments. Bin Laden’s Allah believes in a lot of things people would regard as good and just, after all.

        So nope, the question doesn’t become 100% unknowable at all. And if ‘good’ is just ‘subjective view’, then the moral question pretty much drops out altogether. It becomes a question of how much you value your whim over damnation.

        People who claim they would revolt if A) some such an arbitrary, non-classical God existed, B) commanded them to do something they found morally repugnant C) on pain of eternal hellfire, are hard to take seriously. Especially if – if – their moral view is one that is ultimately subjective anyway. Now, this all turns on a view of God I don’t share, and a view of morality I likewise don’t share. But it’s pretty easy to notice that the claims don’t pass the smell test. See Desmond Tutu saying he’d tell God to send him to hell if God were ‘homophobic’. Does anyone really think that Tutu would say ‘cast me into the pit of eternal fire – moral approval of same-sex sodomy is a line I will not cross!’? Or would he more likely suddenly decide, you know, maybe he got a few things wrong.

        Someone may respond that in that case, God is just a bully. Yeah, but in a world where the subjective is all that matters, bullying and persuasion is the name of the game anyway.

      • Obeying a command that seems to be absolutely evil to you, with the justification that God must know better than you do and what appears absolutely evil to you can in fact be absolutely good, would simply be a form of moral capitulation.

        But I’m not saying morality is unknowable – I’m saying it IS knowable, it just isn’t what I want it to be.

        This actually happens in real life all the time…using jihadists as an example, if we were to tell them that killing infidels was, in fact bad, they would be absolutely convinced you were wrong. And it’s quite possible that even if, somehow, you convinced them they were wrong, I thought they’d like it.

        But, if we can prove, through metaphysical argument, that Divine Command Theory is the grounding of morality, and extremist Islam is the true religion, then NOT killing infidels would be immoral, and I’d know that. I just wouldn’t like it.

      • But, if we can prove, through metaphysical argument, that Divine Command Theory is the grounding of morality, and extremist Islam is the true religion, then NOT killing infidels would be immoral, and I’d know that.

        It seems to me that such a demonstration is only possible by redefining “good” into something that has little to do with what this word usually means.
        People naturally understand “good” as something that is desirable and “bad” as something that is undesirable / to be avoided (and every known language has words to express such a dichotomy of things that are desirable / worth striving for vs things that are undesirable / worth avoiding). And “morality” is, on an abstract level, the process of distinguishing the “good” from the “bad”.
        Now, ending up with a “morality” where killing innocents Al-Qaeda style, despite running counter to your desire of not harming innocents, would still have to be considered “good”, is only possible by redefining “good” to no longer mean what is “desirable” but rather “*whatever* God wants to happen, even if it is the most undesirable thing you can imagine”.

      • People naturally understand “good” as something that is desirable and “bad” as something that is undesirable / to be avoided (and every known language has words to express such a dichotomy of things that are desirable / worth striving for vs things that are undesirable / worth avoiding).

        Again, mistaken. If anything people naturally understand ‘good’ as ‘that which should be desired’ and ‘bad’ as ‘that which should not be desired’. Hence moral commandments that people acknowledge and cop to in spite of their immediate desires. It’s not as if everyone who commits a murder didn’t desire it.

        Now, ending up with a “morality” where killing innocents Al-Qaeda style, despite running counter to your desire of not harming innocents, would still have to be considered “good”, is only possible by redefining “good” to no longer mean what is “desirable” but rather “*whatever* God wants to happen, even if it is the most undesirable thing you can imagine”.

        As illustrated, this isn’t the case. ‘That which should be desired’ has a change of target in this case. And ‘innocents’? You seem to think Al-Qaeda believes they target and kill people -they- think are innocent. But when they think they killed innocent people, something else happens.

  6. Keep in mind, I DON’T think extremist Islam is true (not moral or immoral, true), partly for real historical reasons and partly because I object to Divine Command theory, or at least the simplified form that comes down to “God says kill x because God says”.

    But my point is that IF I come to the conclusion that it’s true, well, that’s it. After that my objections against it amount to whining that I don’t like it.

  7. That’s going to depend on what’s meant by something ‘seeming absolutely evil to me’. How does something seem absolutely evil? If it’s personal subjective whim alone, then it hardly matters anyway – subjective whim is no foundation for morality, and one can change their whims. If what’s good and evil is informed by one’s philosophy, metaphysics and religion, then it would seem coming to the conclusion that Bin Laden’s view of Islam is ‘correct’ leaves open the question of whether one’s view about what is or isn’t ‘absolutely evil/good’ would be changing in the process.

    A moral judgment is always accompanied by an emotion, it “feels” right (if it wouldn´t, we wouldn´t act on it – humans are not robots).
    And no human being makes such judgments based on “subjective whims” – try finding someone who whimsically(!) changes his mind on moral issues, moral judgments are everything but whimsical, they are more serious than any other kind of judgment we can make.
    And The factors that underlie these moral judgments are, on an abstract level, the same for everyone – a sense of harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority, purity and so on. What differs between different people is what those factors exactly are in your environment (what authority and community means to you will be very different from what it would mean for the average Pakistani) and the relative weight of these factors in contributing to your moral judgments. You can spend your entire life in the philosophical ivory tower and speculate about metaphysical questions all day long – you´d still use the exact same cognitive faculties for making moral judgments as everyone else does, you might reach different conclusions, sure, but you are not doing anything that would be qualitatively different.

    Not at all – it would be, at most, intellectual capitulation. ‘Knowing better’ is a reference to intelligence and/or knowledge. And we are entirely comfortable making intellectual capitulations all the time – we trust experts. In this situation, there’s no more authoritative expert than God.

    No, it would be moral capitulation. And it would still be moral capitulation if “God” is indeed the most authoritative expert on this issue there is and can possibly be. If x is absolutely evil in your view, but absolutely good in God´s view, then obeying God is moral capitulation – you could trust that “God” not only knows better than you but is also “good” and will only ever order things that are good, but you have no foundation for this trust since you have just admitted that you are morally maximally incompetent.
    You could also define “good” as whatever God wants to happen and thus torture and rape becomes “good” if God orders it, obviously, because you have just defined “good” to mean whatever God wants – that, however, would also be moral capitulation, “doing good” turns into “blindly obeying whatever this being wants you to do”, and if that is not “moral capitulation”, nothing is.

    Nor is being wrong, even completely wrong, about a particular moral question mean that one is completely incapable of making moral judgments. Bin Laden’s Allah believes in a lot of things people would regard as good and just, after all.

    Being wrong, yes, being “completely wrong” in that you not merely fail to see something good or bad for what it is, but rather see something as being the diametric opposite of what it is? Hardly.

    People who claim they would revolt if A) some such an arbitrary, non-classical God existed, B) commanded them to do something they found morally repugnant C) on pain of eternal hellfire, are hard to take seriously.

    So you could be made to do everything, literally everything, torturing and raping all day long, all by merely threatening you with hellfire? And you find it hard to take someone serious who wouldn´t?
    Very interesting. And very worrisome.

    Especially if – if – their moral view is one that is ultimately subjective anyway.

    Without subjective views, morality doesn´t make any sense to begin with – if the world would not include even a single sentient being, nothing that is capable of making sense of an “ought”, then moral laws would be about as meaningful as chess rules in a world where neither chess exists nor anyone that could play chess even if it would exist. Positing a being that is totally über-powerful and -knowledgeable changes nothing about this at all, at best, this would give you an ideal observer, whose view would still be a “subjective” view.
    You can try to avoid that by simply defining “good” as whatever God wants, in which case Gods commands would be, by definition, objectively what is “good”.
    And granting you something along the line of the last option here (not that I see any reason to grant that, but lets do it for the sake of the argument), and further granting you that your God actually exists, your moral views would still be entirely subjective because you have no objective method of knowing what God actually wants to happen.

    • A moral judgment is always accompanied by an emotion, it “feels” right (if it wouldn´t, we wouldn´t act on it – humans are not robots).

      Not at all. Sometimes a moral judgment is an intellectual conclusion following from premises, and which we admit may well be fallible. Reasoning is not ‘robotic’ – robots don’t reason either.

      And no human being makes such judgments based on “subjective whims” – try finding someone who whimsically(!) changes his mind on moral issues, moral judgments are everything but whimsical, they are more serious than any other kind of judgment we can make.

      It’s actually pretty easy to find people who do change their minds about moral issues on whims. That’s one of the motivating factors behind push-polling; people give different answers to the same question depending on which buttons are pushed, at least if they aren’t giving the subject much thought.

      More than that, ‘feeling really subjectively strongly about this issue!’ still is no grounding for morality at all, or at least it’s the kind of grounding which means that a serial killer is acting morally if they give the right value to what they’re doing. Add in the fact that people’s minds change for non-rational factors (indeed, only non-rational factors on materialism) or they can actually work to intentionally change their own minds, and you’ve got one heck of a system.

      You can spend your entire life in the philosophical ivory tower and speculate about metaphysical questions all day long – you´d still use the exact same cognitive faculties for making moral judgments as everyone else does, you might reach different conclusions, sure, but you are not doing anything that would be qualitatively different.

      Sure you are. There is a qualitative difference between a person whose moral judgments are exclusively ‘these are the feelings I have and that’s that!’ and the person who, upon given great thought and inquiry to the relevant questions of morality (and bothered to figure out what those relevant questions are to begin with) came to a given conclusion about what ‘good’ ultimately is, its objective source, etc.

      No, it would be moral capitulation.

      No, it would be an intellectual capitulation. Doubly so if you had already researched and discovered that ‘morality’/’good’ is ultimately ‘obeying God’s commands’, or even that there was some objective source of morality and that God, more than anyone else, was far better informed about that subject.

      See, where Andy is going wrong here is he’s – consciously or not – a priori ruling out other systems of morality as wrong from the outset, but paradoxically acting as if he’s entertaining the possibility that those other moral systems are true. But the possibility that Malcolm brought up turned precisely on coming to realize that one of those other moral systems -are- true – if ‘doing good’ is, in fact, Divine Command theory, etc. It doesn’t make sense to talk about what follows if we assume Divine Command theory is true, but then suppose from the outset of our analysis that it is, in fact, false.

      If x is absolutely evil in your view, but absolutely good in God´s view, then obeying God is moral capitulation

      Once again, no. I’ve already pointed out – one can make a moral mistake in one situation, but be correct in other situations. The maximally morally incompetent person would make moral mistakes in -all- situations, which is manifestly not the situation being described. And if that’s not maximum moral incompetence, nothing is.

      Likewise, Andy is making multiple mistakes on this front as well. First, he’s talking about ‘defining’ God’s desires as ‘good’, but what’s at issue here is a possibility where this is not simply ‘defined’, but ‘discovered’. Second, by Andy’s standards, all he has done is ‘define’ the morally good as what one strongly feels at a given moment. Notice the double standard – if you blindly follow whatever Being X (God) says is good, that’s moral capitulation, a bad thing. But blindly following whatever Being Y (yourself) says is good… why, that’s moral knowledge par excellence. Except if you say that what is good is doing whatever Being X says is good. Then that’s just moral capitulation.

      The flaws are readily visible here.

      Being wrong, yes, being “completely wrong” in that you not merely fail to see something good or bad for what it is, but rather see something as being the diametric opposite of what it is?

      Yep, a mistake was made. But you also will see, on the Bin Laden example, a tremendous number of things as ‘wrong’ which are in fact ‘wrong’, and ‘right’ which are in fact ‘right’. But the maximally morally incompetent person would have absolutely zero accuracy. And if that’s not moral incompetence, nothing is.

      So you could be made to do everything, literally everything, torturing and raping all day long, all by merely threatening you with hellfire? And you find it hard to take someone serious who wouldn´t?

      Alright, ladies and gentlemen. This is patent intellectual dishonesty, and it’s a joy to point it out – because it illustrates beautifully the weakness of Andy’s intellectual position, and his confidence in himself.

      Notice that my hypothetical example – which I rejected out of hand as being untrue, and not even ‘moral’ in any meaningful sense – did not turn on mere ‘threats of hellfire’. That implies that any yutz making a threat could reasonably change a person’s view, and one would capitulate, reality or likelihood be damned. Instead, I offered a hypothetical situation where hellfire was a certainty – ‘you will be tortured for all time if you do not engage in act X. Do act X, and you avoid hellfire. In fact, you gain splendor.’ We’re ruling out the God of Classical Theism here, we’re ruling out various other moral systems, and working with a nasty one, on the assumption that it is true. I’m pointing out, if you decide in the fact of that reality to, as a matter of fact, capitulate – then you are, by the sloppy standards in play, not doing anything wrong. Their views are the only judge of the matter, and their view has changed for one reason or another.

      I likewise argued that when faced with such a thing – again, we’re dealing with hypothetical certainties here – all the moral posturing about how someone would rather be damned to hell for all eternity rather than, say… regard same-sex sexual acts as immoral, is absurd. If you believe that Desmond Tutu, or most people in general, value such things – or should value such things – to the point where eternal painful torture is preferable to denouncing them, please step forward. You shall be an interesting specimen. Keep in mind, we’re dealing with a hypothetical universe where these are the ultimates – there is no God of classical theism, there is no karma, there is no objective good, there shall be no change in the future about this situation.

      So why did Andy have to lie? Why did my clear example have to become ‘Crude thinks it’s okay to rape if ‘someone’ (implied to be, just some yutz) threatens hellfire’? Could it be that his confidence in his arguments is profoundly lacking? Or that he’s hoping that he can persuade with lies since he can’t with argument?

      Think about it.

      Without subjective views, morality doesn´t make any sense to begin with

      Not in the sense you’re saying, and this is another bait and switch. ‘Subjective views’ don’t create or determine the good in my view. Now, in my hypothetical example where we’re taking on the subjectivity of morality, said subjective desire and opinion is all you have. But then it turns out God would have subjective desires as well, along with omnipotency and the like besides. You can crow all you like about how you would, I suppose, choose ‘eternal torment’ over ‘admitting/coming to believe same-sex sexual behavior is wrong’. If you were to do that, well, I suggest you make for an interesting subject for psychological inquiry.

      your moral views would still be entirely subjective because you have no objective method of knowing what God actually wants to happen.

      Absolutely wrong, given the hypotheticals we’re dealing with – you could come to discover such, if God so communicated. And in the hypothetical example that has been presented, God has done precisely that.

      Anyway, I know I won’t get through to Andy. But I hope someone else takes something away from this analysis – particularly the nasty, desperate little bit of intellectual dishonesty he pulled out. At least someone may learn how to deal with it when it’s delivered to them – and when arguing with progressives, it is only a matter of time before it is.

      • Not at all. Sometimes a moral judgment is an intellectual conclusion following from premises, and which we admit may well be fallible. Reasoning is not ‘robotic’ – robots don’t reason either.

        You cannot decouple that from emotion. If you feel no desire for any particular outcome, then the premises you use in such an intellectual analysis become completely arbitrary. If you feel no desire to avoid harm for yourself and others for example, it becomes an arbitrary premise, you couldn´t care less about a conclusion regarding how harm could be avoided. Similarly, if you feel no desire to “serve God” or “avoid hellfire”, then those premises are also completely arbitrary and you couldn´t care less about any conclusions based on them.

        It’s actually pretty easy to find people who do change their minds about moral issues on whims.

        I´ve never seen a single one. In my experience, people take changes in their moral views extremely seriously because these changes mean that they did acted in a morally wrong way so far, and people tend to be absolutely horrified after changing their views on moral issues in a very significant way – because that means that so far they acted based on *very* wrong views and might thus have done *very* bad things.

        More than that, ‘feeling really subjectively strongly about this issue!’ still is no grounding for morality at all,

        True, no matter how strongly you feel about your God and what your God wants, its no grounding for morality at all.

        or at least it’s the kind of grounding which means that a serial killer is acting morally if they give the right value to what they’re doing.

        A serial killer would be a genuine psychopath, and psychopaths act in a disinhibited way, without remorse or consideration for any “value” at all. Why those people exist needs an explanation, conveniently (for the materialist), psychopathy has physiological correlates that make sense of the incapacity for making moral judgments. What is your explanation for psychopathy?

        Add in the fact that people’s minds change for non-rational factors (indeed, only non-rational factors on materialism)

        While your subjective whims about what some God would want you to are totes rational™.

        Sure you are. There is a qualitative difference between a person whose moral judgments are exclusively ‘these are the feelings I have and that’s that!

        Completely ridiculous strawman that has literally nothing to do with what I said.

        No, it would be an intellectual capitulation. Doubly so if you had already researched and discovered that ‘morality’/’good’ is ultimately ‘obeying God’s commands’, or even that there was some objective source of morality and that God, more than anyone else, was far better informed about that subject.

        Doesn´t address what I said in any way, shape or form.

        See, where Andy is going wrong here is he’s – consciously or not – a priori ruling out other systems of morality as wrong from the outset, but paradoxically acting as if he’s entertaining the possibility that those other moral systems are true. But the possibility that Malcolm brought up turned precisely on coming to realize that one of those other moral systems -are- true – if ‘doing good’ is, in fact, Divine Command theory, etc. It doesn’t make sense to talk about what follows if we assume Divine Command theory is true, but then suppose from the outset of our analysis that it is, in fact, false.

        Because I never granted you that this is what “good” means, I granted you for the sake of the argument that a God exists and that some religion might have correct views about what this God wants. And what I pointed out is that even if that were true, merely trusting such a God to be in fact good when what this God wants seems evil to you, is moral capitulation – even if this God were good, you couldn´t possibly know that this were so, and you are not acting morally by blindly obeying it.

        Likewise, Andy is making multiple mistakes on this front as well. First, he’s talking about ‘defining’ God’s desires as ‘good’, but what’s at issue here is a possibility where this is not simply ‘defined’, but ‘discovered’.

        Crude, who claims to be a Thomist, either doesn´t know what Thomism claims about “goodness” or is lying.

        Second, by Andy’s standards, all he has done is ‘define’ the morally good as what one strongly feels at a given moment.

        Crude is lying.

        Notice the double standard – if you blindly follow whatever Being X (God) says is good, that’s moral capitulation, a bad thing. But blindly following whatever Being Y (yourself) says is good… why, that’s moral knowledge par excellence.

        Crude is a serial liar.

        Alright, ladies and gentlemen. This is patent intellectual dishonesty, and it’s a joy to point it out – because it illustrates beautifully the weakness of Andy’s intellectual position, and his confidence in himself.

        Crude sez:
        “People who claim they would revolt if A) some such an arbitrary, non-classical God existed, B) commanded them to do something they found morally repugnant C) on pain of eternal hellfire, are hard to take seriously.”
        Andy interprets:
        “So you could be made to do everything, literally everything, torturing and raping all day long, all by merely threatening you with hellfire? And you find it hard to take someone serious who wouldn´t?
        Very interesting. And very worrisome.”
        => Which, in the bizarro world that exists in Crude´s mind, “patent intellectual dishonesty”. Cute.

        Notice that my hypothetical example – which I rejected out of hand as being untrue, and not even ‘moral’ in any meaningful sense – did not turn on mere ‘threats of hellfire’. That implies that any yutz making a threat could reasonably change a person’s view, and one would capitulate, reality or likelihood be damned. Instead, I offered a hypothetical situation where hellfire was a certainty – ‘you will be tortured for all time if you do not engage in act X. Do act X, and you avoid hellfire. In fact, you gain splendor.’ We’re ruling out the God of Classical Theism here, we’re ruling out various other moral systems, and working with a nasty one, on the assumption that it is true. I’m pointing out, if you decide in the fact of that reality to, as a matter of fact, capitulate – then you are, by the sloppy standards in play, not doing anything wrong. Their views are the only judge of the matter, and their view has changed for one reason or another.

        Cool. Which means I totally misrepresented Crude´s views because….. reasons!

        I likewise argued that when faced with such a thing – again, we’re dealing with hypothetical certainties here – all the moral posturing about how someone would rather be damned to hell for all eternity rather than, say… regard same-sex sexual acts as immoral, is absurd. If you believe that Desmond Tutu, or most people in general, value such things – or should value such things – to the point where eternal painful torture is preferable to denouncing them, please step forward.

        Ladies and Gentleman, notice how Crude can say this with a straight face (at least I guess he does that) while still maintaining that I totally misrepresented him. Again, cute.

        So why did Andy have to lie? Why did my clear example have to become ‘Crude thinks it’s okay to rape if ‘someone’ (implied to be, just some yutz) threatens hellfire’? Could it be that his confidence in his arguments is profoundly lacking? Or that he’s hoping that he can persuade with lies since he can’t with argument?

        Ah, so the entire rant about Andy obviously being such a vicious liar is based on nothing but an implication, an implication which is so obvious to Crude that it must, I repeat, MUST be what Andy meant, he might not have said so explicitly, and Crude might not have asked him if this is what he meant, but who gives a fuck amirite?!

        Not in the sense you’re saying, and this is another bait and switch. ‘Subjective views’ don’t create or determine the good in my view. Now, in my hypothetical example where we’re taking on the subjectivity of morality, said subjective desire and opinion is all you have. But then it turns out God would have subjective desires as well, along with omnipotency and the like besides.

        And Crude seems to believe that this somehow counters something I said, because… reasons!

        You can crow all you like about how you would, I suppose, choose ‘eternal torment’ over ‘admitting/coming to believe same-sex sexual behavior is wrong’. If you were to do that, well, I suggest you make for an interesting subject for psychological inquiry.

        And again for the lulz, notice how Crude again says this with a straight face (at least I guess he does that) while still maintaining that I totally misrepresented him. This is so adorable.

        Absolutely wrong, given the hypotheticals we’re dealing with – you could come to discover such, if God so communicated. And in the hypothetical example that has been presented, God has done precisely that.

        Awesome! Where is this “communication from God” that doesn´t require any subjective reasoning what-so-ever in order to be a) intelligible and b) identifiable as being a communication from God in the first place? Funny that you christians have this but never show it to anyone, it surely exists because you can´t possibly be lying.

        Anyway, I know I won’t get through to Andy. But I hope someone else takes something away from this analysis – particularly the nasty, desperate little bit of intellectual dishonesty he pulled out.
        At least someone may learn how to deal with it when it’s delivered to them – and when arguing with progressives, it is only a matter of time before it is.

      • You cannot decouple that from emotion.

        No, perhaps Andy cannot decouple that from emotion. Other people seem plenty capable of doing exactly that. A scary world for Andy Schueler – people reasoning about morality, and coming to conclusions. Why, even changing their emotions in the process, rather than letting their emotions be their sole guide. But I assure you, not everyone is so morally crippled.

        I´ve never seen a single one.

        Sheltered life, I see. Never even heard of push-polling, no doubt – do look it up.

        True, no matter how strongly you feel about your God and what your God wants, its no grounding for morality at all.

        Indeed – feelings aren’t grounding for morality. Thank you for the concession, Andy!

        Of course, you’d be incorrect on your own terms. Feeling strongly about God and what God wants is, on your proposed system, the only grounding for morality on offer. But like I said – not everyone is quite as morally crippled as yourself.

        A serial killer would be a genuine psychopath, and psychopaths act in a disinhibited way, without remorse or consideration for any “value” at all.

        No, they simply have a different arrangement of values than yourself.

        Why those people exist needs an explanation, conveniently (for the materialist), psychopathy has physiological correlates that make sense of the incapacity for making moral judgments.

        The materialist has nothing to correlate to. The materialist is left with meat-machines with no intrinsic meaning, no purpose, where all meaning is ultimately derived and, at best, subjectively judged – with the psychotic no more ‘right’ than the victim. And that is admitted by a number of materialists, no less.

        Now, non-materialist of various stripes have plenty of resources to explain such things.

        While your subjective whims about what some God would want you to

        Indeed, subjective whims about God are entirely morally correct in your system – since subjective whims are all that matter whatsoever. No matter how they are come by, no less.

        Of course, my system isn’t based on subjective whim.😉

        Completely ridiculous strawman that has literally nothing to do with what I said.

        You should really look up the definition of ‘literally’, my boy. Also ‘strawman’. I assume your response here is borne of ignorance, not the usual dishonesty.

        Doesn´t address what I said in any way, shape or form.

        Spin, baby, spin.

        Because I never granted you that this is what “good” means, I granted you for the sake of the argument that a God exists and that some religion might have correct views about what this God wants. And what I pointed out is that even if that were true, merely trusting such a God to be in fact good when what this God wants seems evil to you, is moral capitulation – even if this God were good, you couldn´t possibly know that this were so, and you are not acting morally by blindly obeying it.

        Congratulations, Andy – you have conceded the very criticism at issue. The example was given of the truth of this religion or that religion being decisive in determining what we should value, what we should do, what is moral and what is not – but you gave a response acting as if you were addressing the realities of that claim, but in the process you completely left out the little fact that you were not, in fact, taking the religious claims as true.

        Likewise, you didn’t point out anything. You made a bumbling claim, and I pointed out the flaws in it. The person who makes a singular mistake about that which is utterly good and that which is utterly evil is not a person of maximum moral incompetence – that would be the person who mistakes all such things. By the way, you’re welcome for the correction.😉

        Crude, who claims to be a Thomist, either doesn´t know what Thomism claims about “goodness” or is lying.

        Do try to keep up, Andy. We’re dealing with a hypothetical world with Thomism eschewed. I know biologists tend to be the slower of the scientists, but c’mon. This ain’t hard.

        Crude is lying.

        Funny how you say ‘Crude is lying’ but you won’t point out the lie. Do so, boy. Let’s see who’s lying about what.

        Cool. Which means I totally misrepresented Crude´s views because….. reasons!

        Yes, reasons, which I explained so clearly even a child could understand. Let me guess – having had your dishonesty exposed for all to see, now you’re going to plead incompetence. Good tack, Andy – with you, that may well work!

        Ladies and Gentleman, notice how Crude can say this with a straight face (at least I guess he does that) while still maintaining that I totally misrepresented him. Again, cute.

        Yep, you totally misrepresented me, because I wasn’t – as Malcolm pointed out – positing mere ‘threat of hellfire’ from who knows what schmuck, or even ‘fear of hellfire’ in a vague sense, but a situation where knowledge of hellfire given one choice or the other was certain.

        But I’ve addressed your fantasy already.

        Awesome! Where is this “communication from God” that doesn´t require any subjective reasoning what-so-ever in order to be a) intelligible and b) identifiable as being a communication from God in the first place? Funny that you christians have this but never show it to anyone, it surely exists because you can´t possibly be lying.

        Ah, yet another lie. See, here Andy said there is ‘no objective method’ for discovering what God wants. I point out that this is not the case – God can communicate, people can listen, read, and reason – but now Andy falls back to ‘require any subjective reasoning’. But he confuses the use of reasoning with the lack of objectivity. Not a standard I used or implied, and frankly, likely not to be one that Andy uses either – let’s see him say ‘well, since all science uses some subjective reason, nothing can be objectively discovered about it’.

        Bravo Andy, Bravo.😉

      • No, perhaps Andy cannot decouple that from emotion. Other people seem plenty capable of doing exactly that. A scary world for Andy Schueler – people reasoning about morality, and coming to conclusions. Why, even changing their emotions in the process, rather than letting their emotions be their sole guide. But I assure you, not everyone is so morally crippled.

        Yawn. I´ve pointed out that if you feel no desire for any particular outcome, then any premise for an argument regarding morality becomes absolutely meaningless – if you feel no desire to do “good”, however it is defined, no desire to avoid harm, including harm by hellfire, no desire to promote fairness, truth or justice, no desire to serve some allegedly omnibenevolent being, no desire what-so-ever for any morally relevant category. Then there ARE NO morally relevant categories for you and no premise from which to start reasoning about moral issues because you WOULD NOT CARE about any of the conclusions derived from premises about which you couldn´t care less. You don´t try to address that, instead you lie about my position (again) by claiming that I let emotions be the sole guide to moral conclusions (I never said or implied that, and you never even tried to link this lie to anything I ever said) and further lying about me not being interested in moral reasoning (I never said or implied that, and you never even tried to link this lie to anything I ever said).

        I stopped reading your pathetic ramblings after this BS here, I need twice as many words to correct your lies as you need to spew them and it´s not worth the effort given that you lie so often and so carelessly, that I´m not at all bothered by the thought that anyone could take your ridiculous lies seriously – your dishonesty speaks for itself and doesn´t need my corrections.

  8. Now, ending up with a “morality” where killing innocents Al-Qaeda style, despite running counter to your desire of not harming innocents, would still have to be considered “good”, is only possible by redefining “good” to no longer mean what is “desirable” but rather “*whatever* God wants to happen, even if it is the most undesirable thing you can imagine”.

    The issue is not the word “good”, but the word “innocent”. These people we’d be harming wouldn’t, in fact, be innocent at all.

  9. Andy, I will say this: Crude did not say “You can get people to do anything by threatening them with hellfire”.

    He said, “People who say they’d take hellfire over admitting that sodomy is immoral are liars, because that’s a ridiculous and petty thing to take a stand on.” And I agree with that, at least.

    The rest of your whole argument I’ll leave to you two.

    • Andy, I will say this: Crude did not say “You can get people to do anything by threatening them with hellfire”.

      He said, “People who say they’d take hellfire over admitting that sodomy is immoral are liars, because that’s a ridiculous and petty thing to take a stand on.” And I agree with that, at least.

      Yup, he said this and he said also:
      “People who claim they would revolt if A) some such an arbitrary, non-classical God existed, B) commanded them to do something they found morally repugnant C) on pain of eternal hellfire, are hard to take seriously.” (this is what I originally replied to).
      And, afaict, he feels misrepresented because he thinks I implied that it could be just some random shmuck who threatens him with hellfire, compared to hellfire being a certain outcome. I didn´t mean to imply that, and if you´d substitute “merely threatening you with hellfire” with “in order to avoid hellfire”, I´d still stand by what I said, completely.
      I wouldn´t consider rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] to be good if someone managed to convince me that there is a hell and that I´ll go there if I don´t start to consider rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] to be good, and I find it baffling that Crude apparently believes that he could and would do just that in such a situation.

      The rest of your whole argument I’ll leave to you two.

      Yeah, well, I doubt that there will be a further argument, and it was also probably a bad idea for the two of us to start one – Crude and I have a little bit of a history of not getting along very well😉

      • And, afaict, he feels misrepresented because he thinks I implied that it could be just some random shmuck who threatens him with hellfire, compared to hellfire being a certain outcome. I didn´t mean to imply that, and if you´d substitute “merely threatening you with hellfire” with “in order to avoid hellfire”, I´d still stand by what I said, completely.

        Say what you will, Andy – but try being honest when you do it, as hard as that comes to you.

        Even ‘in order to avoid hellfire’ doesn’t do the work here, because once again it opens the possibility to a mistaken belief. But that wasn’t an issue in the hypothetical either. We were talking about a situation with full and accurate knowledge that they could either A) regard same-sex sexual behavior as wrong, or B) be damned to hell for eternity.

        Now, I know it’s a popular fantasy for people to imagine themselves as being stubborn in the face of any and all threats – but I’m pointing out the unfortunate practical reality of that situation, not as some idle ‘this is totally not the case, but if it was, here’s how I imagine it going!’ but as quite real. Yes, I think the smart money says that one should be entirely skeptical of such claims of imaginary fortitude – and in fact, you’d have every reason to believe that, contrary to their claims, they would in fact buckle.

        I wouldn´t consider rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] to be good if someone managed to convince me that there is a hell and that I´ll go there if I don´t start to consider rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] to be good, and I find it baffling that Crude apparently believes that he could and would do just that in such a situation.

        Ah, yet more lies. Andy, are you really this desperate? But hey, if you are, I’m more than happy to point it out – and believe me, it is remarkably easy to see.😉

        This wasn’t a claim about ‘Crude’. This was a claim about, frankly, most human beings – I used Desmond Tutu as the example, but you’ll do just as well. Sorry, Andy – you can huff and puff and say ‘Oh sure, I’ll choose eternal torment at the hands of an omnipotent being, against whom I have exactly 0 hope of ever resisting, over changing my mind about the morality of same sex actions’. You can stomp your feet, pose proudly, and remark about how you would never give in… but frankly, I think even you know better. Eternity is a long time, Andy, the stakes are absurdly high, and the payoff – while distasteful – is not nearly quite so distasteful as the torment.

        I mean, look at you. You can’t even stay honest in an argument when you’re not doing so well. But you’re going to say, with a straight face, that when the stakes are as high as possible, and the choice put to you starkly, that you’ll say ‘Oh yes, vicious torture for all eternity, Omnipotent Being!’? Better yet – you’d say so when your given moral system is ‘the only things that are good are what I decide to be good’ AND ‘I can change my mind about what’s good in time’?

        I don’t find your reaction baffling. It is, instead, utterly insincere. But hey, at least you can stay consistent on that front. After all, you’ve decided that dishonest is moral.😉

      • The claims people like Tutu are making are quite specific – “I would RATHER go to Hell then worship such a God”.

        Put another way – If he COULDN’T change his beliefs anyway, then that statement isn’t particularly impressive or daring. Obviously he meant to be making some sort of claim there.

    • Even ‘in order to avoid hellfire’ doesn’t do the work here, because once again it opens the possibility to a mistaken belief. But that wasn’t an issue in the hypothetical either. We were talking about a situation with full and accurate knowledge that they could either A) regard same-sex sexual behavior as wrong, or B) be damned to hell for eternity.

      Yawn…. then substitute “in order to avoid CERTAIN hellfire” or whatever the hell (pun intended) you want here. You said:
      “People who claim they would revolt if A) some such an arbitrary, non-classical God existed, B) commanded them to do something they found morally repugnant C) on pain of eternal hellfire, are hard to take seriously.”
      – and without this “implied” meaning that is so obvious to you, my interpretation of it seems to be spot on. So, make that substitution if you will, I stand by what I said completely.

      Now, I know it’s a popular fantasy for people to imagine themselves as being stubborn in the face of any and all threats – but I’m pointing out the unfortunate practical reality of that situation, not as some idle ‘this is totally not the case, but if it was, here’s how I imagine it going!’ but as quite real. Yes, I think the smart money says that one should be entirely skeptical of such claims of imaginary fortitude – and in fact, you’d have every reason to believe that, contrary to their claims, they would in fact buckle.

      And I repeat, I don´t believe I could do it, I don´t believe I would do it, and I don´t believe I would want to be able do it.
      If you convinced me that a God is real and will send me to the hell unless I start to genuinely believe that rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] is actually good, then hellfire indeed does seem to be preferable to the alternative of spending eternity with the “God” that is A-OK with torturing people for not believing that rape or torture or [insert morally abhorrent thing here] is actually good.
      If some serial killer would catch you, and force you to “choose” between either starting to genuinely believe (assuming that he has a ways of determining whether you are sincere in what you claim to believe) that he is a moral paragon and starting a “loving relationship” with him, you couldn´t do so. You´d probably say so after a few days at most depending on how good he is at torturing you, but you couldn´t do so, you might start to want to able to do so after some days / weeks of torture (depending on how crappy the prospect of having a loving relationship with this guy looks in comparison to ongoing torture), but this is not even a choice to begin with. Multiplying this shit by infinity doesn´t magically change the outcome.

      Ah, yet more lies. Andy, are you really this desperate? But hey, if you are, I’m more than happy to point it out – and believe me, it is remarkably easy to see.😉

      This wasn’t a claim about ‘Crude’. This was a claim about, frankly, most human beings

      Ah, so I lied because I said that “crude” could and would do it, while you actually meant not only crude but rather “frankly, most human beings”, which of course totally is a lie because if John says “a, b and c are x” and Jim says “John says a is an x”, then Jim is clearly a liar.
      Well, no, actually, Jim wouldn´t be a liar, he would not even have misrepresented John, not even in the slightest, all you could say is that he did not repeat what John said verbatim. Seriously, your desperation is showing dude.

      Sorry, Andy – you can huff and puff and say ‘Oh sure, I’ll choose eternal torment at the hands of an omnipotent being, against whom I have exactly 0 hope of ever resisting, over changing my mind about the morality of same sex actions’. You can stomp your feet, pose proudly, and remark about how you would never give in… but frankly, I think even you know better. Eternity is a long time, Andy, the stakes are absurdly high, and the payoff – while distasteful – is not nearly quite so distasteful as the torment.

      Well, a loving relationship with the hypothetical serial killer above certainly seems to be much more “distasteful” then the prospect of being tortured by him, but I don´t doubt that you´d start confessing whatever he wants to hear from you after a while – that´s what torture was designed for, and it seems to work. Genuinely believing what he wants you to confess? Well, maybe after you´ve gone insane – to the degree that insane thoughts can be considered to be “genuine beliefs”.

      I mean, look at you. You can’t even stay honest in an argument when you’re not doing so well.

      Well, as far as I can tell, you lied your ass off and for every single stupid accusation of me lying about you, it turns out that I only lied for some crazy-ass “implications” that are allegedly contained in what I said or didn´t lie, not even slightly misrepresent you, what-so-ever, see above.

      Better yet – you’d say so when your given moral system is ‘the only things that are good are what I decide to be good’ AND ‘I can change my mind about what’s good in time’?

      😀
      Amazing. You keep on rambling about my alleged lies, which turn out to not be lies at all, and then you simply repeat this Bullshit here, that has nothing to do whatsoever with anything I wrote and for which you do not even TRY to link it to anything I wrote.
      You are a pathetic lying scumbag, and you have my pity.

      • And I repeat, I don´t believe I could do it, I don´t believe I would do it, and I don´t believe I would want to be able do it.

        While Andy rapidly descends to new lows of dishonest scumbaggery, lying left and right in a frantic attempt to shore up a worldview he knows is sorely lacking in both argument and value, I’m going to take this in a new direction: I’m going to give one hell of an argument showing that, on his own account of morality, it would be irrational by his own standards to act in the way he suggests he would act.

        Let’s recall the situation: we have being A who exists. I’ve called this being God, but since I’m a classical theist – and this is not at all the God of classical theism – I’m going to call this Deus A. Deus A is omnipotent and omniscient, but not the Good, or Truth, or the like. It’s just a supremely powerful being. Let’s further say that Deus A’s whims are arbitrary – there exists no Platonic Good or the like. In other words, we’re going to use Andy’s morality here, where what is ‘good’ is wholly subjective: strongly feeling that X is good is as ‘good’ as it gets.

        And then there’s hypothetical Andy – we’ll call him Andy 1. Andy 1 believes strongly that, say – just to switch this around, for a laugh – sodomy is terrible and horrible. Tell him sodomy is good, and he rants and raves, even lies a bit, in his defense of it. Such is the strong emotional commitment of Andy 1.

        Well, then Andy 1 is placed into a position: he encounters Deus A. Deus A explains to Andy 1 quite clearly that he has two choices before him: either Andy 1 celebrates sodomy as great and good and pure, or Andy 1 burns eternally in hell. Neverending torment and unpleasantness.

        At first, Andy 1 balks. Again, Andy 1 thinks sodomy is rotten! Very strong subjective and emotional commitment here. Andy 1 does not, all else being equal, want to celebrate sodomy.

        But all else is not equal.

        Andy 1 is in a dilemma. Again, Deus A is omniscient and omnipotent. There is no resisting Deus A. If Andy 1 defies Deus A, he’s got exactly 0% odds on stopping Deus A from condemning anyone. All his act materially gains him is eternal torment.

        But there’s another factor at work here. Andy 1 may value his condemnation of sodomy – but it’s not ALL he values. Andy 1 values pleasure, and pleasure is incompatible with torment. He values his well-being, he values a whole lot of things. Sure, he also values his ability to do as he pleases – but that is a conditioned value regardless, since Andy 1 already is forced to accept limitations in his life. Andy 1 realizes that he stands to lose everything that he values by his act of defiance – and the only thing he gains IS his act of defiance.

        It gets worse. Andy 1 further realizes that, insofar as he’s damned to hell for all eternity… there would exist the capacity to change his mind. First, about his defiance. But more than that, also about how much he dislikes sodomy. So if Andy 1 picks defiance, he’s bound to hell for all time, tormented, and really – ‘regret’ is estimated to be very likely in the cards. What will not change, however, is the torment Andy 1 experiences at the hands of Deus A. It’s not like Deus A is going to let hell turn into heaven for Andy 1.

        And it gets even worse than that, for where Andy 1’s stubbornness is concerned. See, Andy 1 is aware of his own moral system – what determines the morality of an act is, exclusively, his subjective view of said act. If Andy 1 thinks something is moral, it’s moral. If Andy 1 thinks something is immoral, it’s immoral. What’s key here is that if Andy 1 changes his mind – if Andy 1 decided that sodomy is fantastic rather than terrible – then he’d still be ‘right’, morally speaking. Morality is subjective, and the subjective in this case is beholden to nothing. And Andy 1, if he’s not in hell, can ‘come around’ to Deus A’s views on sodomy. Say it takes a hundred years. A thousand years. A billion years! It doesn’t matter, since any amount of time is shorter than ‘eternity’. Andy 1 can even intentionally work at this! And, all things considered, he’d have ample reason to do exactly that.

        So, let’s take stock of Andy 1’s situation: accept hellfire, and he gains an act of defiance, while losing everything else Andy 1 values, save for the act of defiance itself – and what Andy 1 values can, and very likely will, change during the course of his torment. Or, Andy 1 can yield to the demands of Deus A, escape hellfire, sacrifice the view he values – but at the same time retain all else that he values and much more, AND he can even come around to Deus A’s view. In that case, Andy 1 would not only retain all that he valued, but he wouldn’t even exist in a state where he was doing something immoral by his own view. It may take time, but that’s all it would take.

        Thus – given the moral system of Andy, Andy 1 would actually be irrational to choose hellfire when placed in that situation. Deus A gives him pleasure, shields him from hellfire, allows Andy to retain all other things that he values, AND Andy can pretty well guarantee that eventually he’ll get over his problem with sodomy and come to embrace it. After all, there’s no reason not to other than his immediate subjective view – and subjective views can change.

        Now, I could tweak the situation if necessary – I could point out how Deus A, being omnipotent, could not only throw Andy 1 into hell, but throw Andy 1 into hell AND, after the fact, change Andy 1’s subjective view anyway to be in agreement with Deus A, far too late. The reason I bring this up is because of the following: morally speaking, it wouldn’t morally matter if Andy 1’s subjective views were forcibly changed in this way, since all that matters are the subjective views, whatever they are. It’s not as if they track to some objective good or evil, it’s not as if there’s some objective ‘ought’ out there where they are ‘supposed’ to be this or that way. They are what they are, however that may be, and morality is, for Andy 1, whatever those subjective views are.

        Regardless, this is an argument meant to illustrate that given the situation I’ve outlined – using Andy’s own moral system – Andy 1 would actually be irrational to be defiant.

        You’re welcome, Andy.😉

      • I’m going to take this in a new direction: I’m going to give one hell of an argument showing that, on his own account of morality, it would be irrational by his own standards to act in the way he suggests he would act.

        Oh, jolly good!🙂 I expect some problems due to the fact that crude is notoriously unable to say something that even remotely resembles anything I ever wrote about my “own account of morality”, but lets give the little fella a chance. Go crude!

        Let’s further say that Deus A’s whims are arbitrary – there exists no Platonic Good or the like. In other words, we’re going to use Andy’s morality here, where what is ‘good’ is wholly subjective: strongly feeling that X is good is as ‘good’ as it gets.

        Bzzt. Wrong. Wrong from the get go. In fact, crude repeated this very lie, this exact lie, five – not two, not three, not four – FIVE times in this thread. Without even once quoting me as saying this or implying this – yes, that´s right, crude doesn´t even try to misrepresent Andy, he just repeats the same completely baseless lie over and over and over and over and over (yes, FIVE times) again.
        But lets proceed and learn more about objective moral values from serial liar crude!

        Tell him sodomy is good, and he rants and raves, even lies a bit, in his defense of it. Such is the strong emotional commitment of Andy 1.

        Yeah, “lies” about poor little crude that turn out to be exactly what crude actually said:
        What else does lyin´ little crude have to say about objective moral values?

        Well, then Andy 1 is placed into a position: he encounters Deus A. Deus A explains to Andy 1 quite clearly that he has two choices before him: either Andy 1 celebrates sodomy as great and good and pure, or Andy 1 burns eternally in hell. Neverending torment and unpleasantness.

        At first, Andy 1 balks. Again, Andy 1 thinks sodomy is rotten! Very strong subjective and emotional commitment here. Andy 1 does not, all else being equal, want to celebrate sodomy.

        But all else is not equal.

        Andy 1 is in a dilemma. Again, Deus A is omniscient and omnipotent. There is no resisting Deus A. If Andy 1 defies Deus A, he’s got exactly 0% odds on stopping Deus A from condemning anyone. All his act materially gains him is eternal torment.

        But there’s another factor at work here. Andy 1 may value his condemnation of sodomy – but it’s not ALL he values. Andy 1 values pleasure, and pleasure is incompatible with torment. He values his well-being, he values a whole lot of things. Sure, he also values his ability to do as he pleases – but that is a conditioned value regardless, since Andy 1 already is forced to accept limitations in his life. Andy 1 realizes that he stands to lose everything that he values by his act of defiance – and the only thing he gains IS his act of defiance.

        😀 Objective moral values 101: if someone is more powerful than you are, and threatens to torture you unless you unless you agree with him that torture and rape are in fact morally excellent choices, you not only can start to genuinely believe that (because your moral convictions are in fact subjective whims and you can freely choose to genuinely believe their negation when someone threatens you with torture) you also absolutely *should* believe that. What better way to start a lasting and loving relationship with the murderous rapist that threatened you with torture??
        But wait, I´m sure lyin´ little crude has even moar “objective” (LOL😀 ) “moral” (😀 ) “values” (😀😀😀 ) to teach!

        And it gets even worse than that, for where Andy 1′s stubbornness is concerned. See, Andy 1 is aware of his own moral system – what determines the morality of an act is, exclusively, his subjective view of said act. If Andy 1 thinks something is moral, it’s moral. If Andy 1 thinks something is immoral, it’s immoral.

        And the pathetic lying scumbag of the year award goes to….. *drumroll* CRUDE!
        Repeating the *same* lie 6, (S-I-X!!) times within just a few hours and without even so much as TRYING to give the lie at least a modicum of credibility by quote-mining or some other form of misrepresentation takes a truly depraved mindset, but that our lyin´ little crude, lets see if he can make it to seven!

        Now, I could tweak the situation if necessary – I could point out how Deus A, being omnipotent, could not only throw Andy 1 into hell, but throw Andy 1 into hell AND, after the fact, change Andy 1′s subjective view anyway to be in agreement with Deus A, far too late. The reason I bring this up is because of the following: morally speaking, it wouldn’t morally matter if Andy 1′s subjective views were forcibly changed in this way, since all that matters are the subjective views, whatever they are. It’s not as if they track to some objective good or evil, it’s not as if there’s some objective ‘ought’ out there where they are ‘supposed’ to be this or that way. They are what they are, however that may be, and morality is, for Andy 1, whatever those subjective views are.

        Aaaaaand, we made it to SEVEN!! Lets all give a big round of applause for lying scumbag troll aka crude.

        You’re welcome, Andy.😉

        Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Thanks for providing another datapoint for Poe´s law, thanks for providing another datapoint for the fact that being a Bible-believing and Jesus-worshipping man is perfectly compatible with being a vicious pathological liar and thanks for all the lulz!🙂

      • Looks like I hit some sore spots with Andy! Time to analyze his responses – there’s free smiley faces for everyone, and in such abundance!😉

        Bzzt. Wrong. Wrong from the get go. In fact, crude repeated this very lie, this exact lie, five – not two, not three, not four – FIVE times in this thread. Without even once quoting me as saying this or implying this – yes, that´s right, crude doesn´t even try to misrepresent Andy, he just repeats the same completely baseless lie over and over and over and over and over (yes, FIVE times) again.

        Precious, just precious. Andy wants quotes? Here’s Andy earlier in this very thread:

        And no human being makes such judgments based on “subjective whims” – try finding someone who whimsically(!) changes his mind on moral issues, moral judgments are everything but whimsical, they are more serious than any other kind of judgment we can make.
        And The factors that underlie these moral judgments are, on an abstract level, the same for everyone – a sense of harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority, purity and so on. What differs between different people is what those factors exactly are in your environment (what authority and community means to you will be very different from what it would mean for the average Pakistani) and the relative weight of these factors in contributing to your moral judgments.

        Now, recall what I just said: for Andy, morality is determined wholly by the subjective. But what are the factors that Andy appeals to with moral judgments?

        A sense of harm.
        … fairness.
        … community / group loyalty.
        … authority.
        … purity.
        And so on, plus the weight you give these factors.

        Now, Andy lies and says that I didn’t quote him saying or implying this. But there’s his quote – and yep, that is what he is saying and implying. Now, he may argue that various factors can be at work with one’s subjective account of morality – but the subjectivity of the account remains. I explicitly mentioned in the argument I gave that subjectivity can in principle be influenced, even forced.

        So, swing and a miss from good ol’ Andy. Let’s continue.

        Objective moral values 101: if someone is more powerful than you are, and threatens to torture you unless you unless you agree with him that torture and rape are in fact morally excellent choices, you not only can start to genuinely believe that (because your moral convictions are in fact subjective whims and you can freely choose to genuinely believe their negation when someone threatens you with torture) you also absolutely *should* believe that. What better way to start a lasting and loving relationship with the murderous rapist that threatened you with torture??

        Oops, Andy’s lying even more here!

        First, Andy implies that I accept and believe in his subjective moral system, when I explicitly reject it. In fact, I say so right in the very example he’s responding to: I’ve called this being God, but since I’m a classical theist – and this is not at all the God of classical theism – I’m going to call this Deus A. Deus A is omnipotent and omniscient, but not the Good, or Truth, or the like. It’s just a supremely powerful being. Let’s further say that Deus A’s whims are arbitrary – there exists no Platonic Good or the like. My view? Not by a longshot. In fact, I explicitly chose a being who actually has moral views *opposite* of my own. Oops! Andy’s having trouble reading again.😉

        Likewise, ‘lasting and loving relationship’? Poor Andy – see, Andy is forever fighting phantoms. I nowhere – not at any place in my entire example, or this thread – cited a ‘lasting and loving relationship’. I said, in fact, I would even regard this being as God! But Andy’s still fighting the phantoms of his younger days – terrifying Christians who upset him greatly, and whom he sees the shadows of whenever his heart beat rises.

        I pointed out what rationally follows given Andy’s own subjective system, what he values and does not value, and the situation he finds himself in. Call Deus A a murderous rapist if you like (again, neither murder nor rape showed up in this example. Hellfire did.) But if you regard this murderous rapist as morally good, then the murderous rapist is, in fact, morally good. That’s where you get with a subjective moral system.

        I simply illustrated what follows, insofar as rationality goes, given the assumptions of Andy’s system with the hypothetical situation I provided. It’s distasteful, yes. Pity Andy can’t argue against it.

        Repeating the *same* lie 6, (S-I-X!!) times within just a few hours and without even so much as TRYING to give the lie at least a modicum of credibility by quote-mining or some other form of misrepresentation takes a truly depraved mindset, but that our lyin´ little crude, lets see if he can make it to seven!

        Fun fact: one easy way to tell when Andy is lying through his teeth is when he keeps screaming ‘liar, liar, liar’ but he never clarifies where the supposed lie is. Because if he clarified, it would be all too easy to show that there ain’t a lie to be found, save for the ones he spews.😉

        Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

        My pleasure, Andy! You are always fun, but never for the reasons you intend.😉

      • Looks like I hit some sore spots with Andy!

        Yeah, keep telling yourself that – alternatively, take a break, read this exchange again, observe how quickly you lost your cool, and try to figure out where it all went wrong. Or, link to it on that shitty little blog of yours, I´m sure you must be proud of how you managed to stay cool (😀 ) and managed to limit your repetitions of the exact same lie to just seven instances😉

        And now, lets observe how crude desperately tries to show that he didn´t lie by repeating BS like this:
        – “In other words, we’re going to use Andy’s morality here, where what is ‘good’ is wholly subjective: strongly feeling that X is good is as ‘good’ as it gets.”
        – “what determines the morality of an act is, exclusively, his subjective view of said act. If Andy 1 thinks something is moral, it’s moral. If Andy 1 thinks something is immoral, it’s immoral.”
        – “A scary world for Andy Schueler – people reasoning about morality, and coming to conclusions. Why, even changing their emotions in the process, rather than letting their emotions be their sole guide.”
        ad nauseam:

        Precious, just precious. Andy wants quotes? Here’s Andy earlier in this very thread:

        And no human being makes such judgments based on “subjective whims” – try finding someone who whimsically(!) changes his mind on moral issues, moral judgments are everything but whimsical, they are more serious than any other kind of judgment we can make.
        And The factors that underlie these moral judgments are, on an abstract level, the same for everyone – a sense of harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority, purity and so on. What differs between different people is what those factors exactly are in your environment (what authority and community means to you will be very different from what it would mean for the average Pakistani) and the relative weight of these factors in contributing to your moral judgments.

        Now, recall what I just said: for Andy, morality is determined wholly by the subjective. But what are the factors that Andy appeals to with moral judgments?

        A sense of harm.
        … fairness.
        … community / group loyalty.
        … authority.
        … purity.
        And so on, plus the weight you give these factors.

        😀
        And maybe crude is not just a liar, but also a moron, and genuinely too stupid to realize that pretty much ALL meta-ethical positions (except for some odd ones like moral nihilism, for which it could be argued that no one except for a genuine psychopath actually lives in a way that could be described by them), ARE covered by what I said, because I intentionally kept it as general as possible.
        This includes all moral realist positions and subjectivist positions like divine command theory (under which a moral proposition derives its truth value from divine authority).
        Liar or moron or both? You decide.
        Note further how crude couldn´t find any quote of mine that says or implies that what Andy thinks to be moral necessarily is moral.
        Note further that crude couldn´t find any quote of mine that says or implies that Andy believes moral reasoning is pointless and morality is determined wholly by emotions (Andy´s emotions of course).
        Note also that what Andy actually said has in fact nothing what-so-ever to do with the ridiculous lies from vicious scumbag troll aka crude.

        First, Andy implies that I accept and believe in his subjective moral system

        Liar or moron? This time I guess it´s really just idiocy, because crude is so confused about morality that he probably doesn´t even know what Andy´s meta-ethical views even ARE (hint: I´ve mentioned it once on this blog, have fun finding it😉 ).

        Likewise, ‘lasting and loving relationship’? Poor Andy – see, Andy is forever fighting phantoms. I nowhere – not at any place in my entire example, or this thread – cited a ‘lasting and loving relationship’. I said, in fact, I would even regard this being as God! But Andy’s still fighting the phantoms of his younger days

        Younger days? Dude, even as a little child I wasn´t gullible enough to believe this ridiculous BS that you call your religious views (and by that I don´t mean christianity in general, here I´m only talking about you).

        But if you regard this murderous rapist as morally good, then the murderous rapist is, in fact, morally good. That’s where you get with a subjective moral system.

        1. You have no idea what my “moral system” even is.
        2. Moral subjectivism doesn´t mean what you think it does, you are thinking about moral nihilism vs relativism vs universalism – a subjectivist position can also be a universalist position, and divine command theory for example would be just that, genius.

        Fun fact: one easy way to tell when Andy is lying through his teeth is when he keeps screaming ‘liar, liar, liar’ but he never clarifies where the supposed lie is.

        Yeah, if “never” means “always” then yes.

      • Andy,

        Yeah, keep telling yourself that – alternatively, take a break, read this exchange again, observe how quickly you lost your cool, and try to figure out where it all went wrong.

        Tut, tut, Andy. I’m keeping my cool, staying on target, and quoting just fine. You’re spazzing out, fighting the dreaded Christians even though I haven’t (as usual) brought Christ into this argument at all, plastering smiley faces all over the place in one of the most blatant freakouts it’s even been my pleasure to stir.

        Thanks for mentioning my blog, by the by. I love knowing I have devoted readers of that meager thing.😉

        And maybe crude is not just a liar, but also a moron, and genuinely too stupid to realize that pretty much ALL meta-ethical positions (except for some odd ones like moral nihilism, for which it could be argued that no one except for a genuine psychopath actually lives in a way that could be described by them), ARE covered by what I said, because I intentionally kept it as general as possible.

        Another lie on Andy’s part, and once again, a dodge. Again and again you insist that I’m wrong in describing the moral system you espouse, Andy, but you never come out and say ‘I believe X!’ for us to see. I’ve provided quotes from you showing how you view morality, what factors go into your moral view, and more. Your big defense is ‘I can say that what I said was vague!’

        Prove me wrong, Andy. Outline your view of morality. Show me it’s not ultimately a subjective view. But we know you won’t do that, because you know I haven’t lied in this exchange – I have you quite dead to rights.😉

        Note further how crude couldn´t find any quote of mine that says or implies that what Andy thinks to be moral necessarily is moral.
        Note further that crude couldn´t find any quote of mine that says or implies that Andy believes moral reasoning is pointless and morality is determined wholly by emotions (Andy´s emotions of course).
        Note also that what Andy actually said has in fact nothing what-so-ever to do with the ridiculous lies from vicious scumbag troll aka crude.

        Note how Crude quoted the factors Andy laid out – the only factors he laid out – with regards to determining what is and isn’t moral. Note how Crude quoted Andy’s cites of subjectivity in the process. Note that Crude never said that Andy believes that moral reasoning is pointless, or even that morality is determined wholly by emotions – in fact, Crude expressly quoted the list of factors Andy laid out, but pointed out their ultimate subjectivity.

        But my favorite “response” from wee boy Andy? It’s this:

        he probably doesn´t even know what Andy´s meta-ethical views even ARE (hint: I´ve mentioned it once on this blog, have fun finding it😉 ).

        Yep. Andy keeps screaming “Crude is lying! Crude is lying! He never quoted me expressly saying this was my moral view! Instead he, uh, quoted the factors that I say go into a moral decision, subjective as they are!”

        And when I ask Andy to provide his moral view to see if in fact I am lying, if in fact it does reduce to a subjective view? His response is ‘Muahaha, I won’t tell you, I only mentioned it once ever and you’ll never find it!’

        It’s a pity, ain’t it, that you’ve pretty well spelled it out given your metaphysical commitments, your claims about what factors are relevant for a moral view, and further – eh?😉

        Dude, even as a little child I wasn´t gullible enough to believe this ridiculous BS that you call your religious views (and by that I don´t mean christianity in general, here I´m only talking about you).

        Oh lovely, you’re one of those guys who became a committed atheist at 8 years old. Better yet, you’re popping off about my religious views, when you’ve made it clear repeatedly you’ve not a clue what they are beyond ‘thomism’. Are you going to scream about ‘bible thumping’ again, even though I’ve never quoted the bible at you, ever? Let me tell you – that is some glorious insight into your psychological frailties, kiddo. Forever haunted by Christian demons, tsk tsk.

        1. You have no idea what my “moral system” even is.
        2. Moral subjectivism doesn´t mean what you think it does, you are thinking about moral nihilism vs relativism vs universalism – a subjectivist position can also be a universalist position, and divine command theory for example would be just that, genius.

        Uhoh! Andy went to the wikipedia page for moral subjectivism! He brought out the big guns now!

        Newsflash Andy: a subjective opinion that a given moral claim is universally binding… is still a subjective belief. All that I’ve said here comports just fine with moral subjectivism as so defined.

        Swing and a miss there, Andy. But did anyone really expect any better?

        Yeah, if “never” means “always” then yes.

        Keep telling yourself that, squirt. Whatever helps you fight those terrifying Christian phantoms you are forever plagued by psychologically. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for you to man up and not just scream ‘liar liar’ at me hopelessly, but actually provide your moral view.

        Oops, wait. You know that for as bad as you’ve done in this conversation, making THAT move would just move you from bad to worse.

        Quick, whine some more and dump a ton of smilies into your reply! That’s the best you’ve got, after all.😉

      • …. plastering smiley faces all over the place in one of the most blatant freakouts

        I love knowing I have devoted readers of that meager thing.😉

        crude makes fun of the usage of smiley faces, proceeds to use smiley faces the same way he does ever since this exchange started…
        Your complete lack of self-awareness is as pathetic as it is amusing😉

        Another lie on Andy’s part, and once again, a dodge. Again and again you insist that I’m wrong in describing the moral system you espouse, Andy, but you never come out and say ‘I believe X!’ for us to see.

        O M F G. Ladies and Gentleman, observe crude´s response after being demonstrated to be a serial liar – “yeah, well, I´ve repeated the same lie about your moral position over and over and over and over again, but it´s your fault because you never told me exactly what your moral position even is!!11!”
        Wow. Seriously – WOW. I really didn´t expect much from you, but *that*?
        Dude, has it ever occured to you of, dunno, asking me what my meta-ethical views are BEFORE making shit up and repeating this made up shit ad nauseam? That kind of seems to be natural thing to do…
        The reason I never mentioned it explicitly is because I was making a completely different point when I wrote what you quoted (hint: read it again and note how I didn´t even try to describe MY views but rather talked about moral judgments *in general*)
        But because you asked so nicely, it´s one of those three:
        1. Utilitarianism (hint: that one is actually a form of moral realism in which moral propositions amount to facts that are a) independent of minds and can be b) objectively true or false)
        2. Subjective universalism (hint: “subjective” doesn´t mean what you think it does in this context)
        3. Ideal observer theory (hint: that one is in practice surprisingly similar to divine command theory)
        Have fun guessing which one it is.

        Prove me wrong, Andy. Outline your view of morality.

        Yeah, well, fun facts:
        1. I could come out as a moral nihilist right now and it would still be true that you were making shit up, because you could not have possibly known this until now.
        2. It´s one of the three mentioned above – again, have fun guessing (btw: for the question of whether you are a liar or not, that is pretty much irrelevant, you would be a liar for either one of the three choices).

        Show me it’s not ultimately a subjective view.

        FFS, try to get at least a grip of the very basics, “subjective” doesn´t mean what you think it does here, not even remotely, divine command theory (for example) is a subjectivist postion while utilitarianism (for example) is not. “Subjective” in this context has nothing to do with whether the system in question assigns a) universality and b) objective truth values to moral propositions.

        Note how Crude quoted the factors Andy laid out – the only factors he laid out – with regards to determining what is and isn’t moral. Note how Crude quoted Andy’s cites of subjectivity in the process. Note that Crude never said that Andy believes that moral reasoning is pointless, or even that morality is determined wholly by emotions

        Of course you didn´t!. No, wait….
        “A scary world for Andy Schueler – people reasoning about morality, and coming to conclusions. Why, even changing their emotions in the process, rather than letting their emotions be their sole guide.”
        – Ladies and Gentleman, behold this quote which totally – TOTALLY – does not mean that crude accused Andy of letting emotions be his SOLE GUIDE to morality, it also doesn´t mean that Andy believes that moral reasoning is pointless, because… Andy is just “scared of” moral reasoning, which is like totally different and stuff.
        Yeah, you could at least try to put up a challenge, this gets boring.

        But my favorite “response” from wee boy Andy? It’s this:

        he probably doesn´t even know what Andy´s meta-ethical views even ARE (hint: I´ve mentioned it once on this blog, have fun finding it😉 ).

        Yep. Andy keeps screaming “Crude is lying! Crude is lying! He never quoted me expressly saying this was my moral view! Instead he, uh, quoted the factors that I say go into a moral decision, subjective as they are!”

        Right, because harm doesn´t objectively exist, authority, including divine authority (assuming that there is a god) doesn´t objectively exist, communities do not objectively exist, and so on and so forth – must be so, crude sez so after all. But again, the “yeah, I might have lied about your moral position, but you never told me exactly what it is, so you FORCED me to make shit up about you” is pathetic…. and hilarious.

        Oh lovely, you’re one of those guys who became a committed atheist at 8 years old.

        No, I didn´t give a fuck about religion one way or the other until well into my teenage years – I grew up in a part of the world where christians are both rare and also tend to have the decency to not pester others with their religious views constantly. Yeah, sheltered, I know.

        Better yet, you’re popping off about my religious views, when you’ve made it clear repeatedly you’ve not a clue what they are beyond ‘thomism’.

        Well, you´ve been rather coy about expressing what exactly your views are (note how I, unlike you, actually bothered to ask you WHAT they are – several times actually in earlier threads – instead of just making shit up) but what little I´ve gleaned seems to be pretty ridiculous,

        Are you going to scream about ‘bible thumping’ again, even though I’ve never quoted the bible at you, ever? Let me tell you – that is some glorious insight into your psychological frailties, kiddo. Forever haunted by Christian demons, tsk tsk.

        You know what – I do apologize for the bible-thumping comment, that one was actually completely uncalled for. But I can´t help pointing out that *you* complaining about being pigeonholed is rich – because you do it all the time.

        Uhoh! Andy went to the wikipedia page for moral subjectivism! He brought out the big guns now!

        No I´ve actually bothered to read at least some of the books from this field (and no, not only Peter Singer et al.) and I didn´t try to lecture people on it before I did so.

        Newsflash Andy: a subjective opinion that a given moral claim is universally binding… is still a subjective belief. All that I’ve said here comports just fine with moral subjectivism as so defined.

        I don´t give a flying fuck about your unreflected ad hoc definitions. There is a rich body of literature dealing with this stuff and plenty of freely available online resources that provide brief summaries – if you are too lazy to even just briefly look this stuff up on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or Wikipedia, then pester someone else.

        Quick, whine some more and dump a ton of smilies into your reply! That’s the best you’ve got, after all.😉

        That literally made me squirm, seriously – your complete lack of self-awareness was funny so far, but now I actually start feeling sorry for you.

      • Andy,

        crude makes fun of the usage of smiley faces, proceeds to use smiley faces the same way he does ever since this exchange started…
        Your complete lack of self-awareness is as pathetic as it is amusing

        Going to🙂🙂🙂 lol😉😉😉 at me again, Andy? Please, have another freakout – you do them so amusingly!

        Wow. Seriously – WOW. I really didn´t expect much from you, but *that*?
        Dude, has it ever occured to you of, dunno, asking me what my meta-ethical views are BEFORE making shit up and repeating this made up shit ad nauseam? That kind of seems to be natural thing to do…

        Dear Darwin, Andy. Do you ever stop lying? Or do you just get some weird erotic thrill out of being so exposed?

        I’ve quoted you time and again where you laid out what pieces go into your meta-ethical view, what you prioritize, what you think is essential. I took that information and went right ahead with a criticism of the view you were outlining. Your sole response up until this point – sole response – has been to go ‘Crude is lying! That’s not my view! Your criticisms don’t touch my view, nyah nyah!’ without explaining just what your view is, and how I got it wrong. I can hardly be blamed, Andy, for criticizing what you give me, if you forever say ‘b-b-but there’s more, I just won’t tell you!’

        So tell me. God, how many times do I have to tell you to come clean before you do it?

        1. Utilitarianism (hint: that one is actually a form of moral realism in which moral propositions amount to facts that are a) independent of minds and can be b) objectively true or false)
        2. Subjective universalism (hint: “subjective” doesn´t mean what you think it does in this context)
        3. Ideal observer theory (hint: that one is in practice surprisingly similar to divine command theory)
        Have fun guessing which one it is.

        Here’s few more hints right back at you, squirt.

        1. The fact that utilitarianism is classified as a form of moral realism won’t be a concern to me, because – as I have said repeatedly – my concern is what the position ultimately reduces to, and utilitarianism is going to be subjective where it counts, and will be subject to the criticisms I’ve outlined. Hint: You don’t understand just how far those criticisms extend.
        2. Subjective universalism will likewise be subject to the criticisms I’ve outlined with my argument.
        3. The same goes here.

        So this is why Andy’s been lying all this time – his only remaining move was to kick up dust and insist I’ve gotten him wrong, so obfuscation was central to him. Cornered, he pulls out three last-ditch defenses, and all three of them are going to fail spectacularly.

        Good job, Andy. Truly a master of failure!

        FFS, try to get at least a grip of the very basics, “subjective” doesn´t mean what you think it does here, not even remotely, divine command theory (for example) is a subjectivist postion while utilitarianism (for example) is not. “Subjective” in this context has nothing to do with whether the system in question assigns a) universality and b) objective truth values to moral propositions.

        Holy hell, kid. I know that you went all the way to the wikipedia and looked at the categories these views were placed under – but you do realize that arguments can show that such views ultimately do not achieve what they hope to achieve, and may well collapse into another category altogether?

        Wow, just wow. No wonder you lie so much – when you actually move so much as an inch towards trying to have a proper philosophical argument, you set yourself up to be knocked back a yard.

        – Ladies and Gentleman, behold this quote which totally – TOTALLY – does not mean that crude accused Andy of letting emotions be his SOLE GUIDE to morality, it also doesn´t mean that Andy believes that moral reasoning is pointless, because… Andy is just “scared of” moral reasoning, which is like totally different and stuff.

        Ladies and gentlemen, let’s quote Crude once again outlining Andy’s ingredients for morality:

        Now, recall what I just said: for Andy, morality is determined wholly by the subjective. But what are the factors that Andy appeals to with moral judgments?

        A sense of harm.
        … fairness.
        … community / group loyalty.
        … authority.
        … purity.
        And so on, plus the weight you give these factors.

        Bad job of bullshitting, kid.

        Right, because harm doesn´t objectively exist, authority, including divine authority (assuming that there is a god) doesn´t objectively exist, communities do not objectively exist, and so on and so forth – must be so, crude sez so after all. But again, the “yeah, I might have lied about your moral position, but you never told me exactly what it is, so you FORCED me to make shit up about you” is pathetic…. and hilarious.

        As usual, the game of Andy Sez is just a rehash of Andy Lies. Crude never said harm doesn’t objectively exist, or authority doesn’t objectively exist, and so on and so on. Crude sez – here’s the important part, Andy, try to put on your thinking cap and pay attention to this one – that given a perspective where the subjective ultimately reigns (hint: even if the system purports to not let the subjective reign, if it in fact reduces to subjectivity, subjectivity still reigns), ‘authority’ is just subjectively assigned, as do the values of community and otherwise. Now, I would further add that on materialism, such things don’t ‘objectively’ exist, because materialism eschews intrinsic meaning – and without intrinsic meaning, the ‘objective existence’ of what you’re talking about dies on the vine.

        And, liar, I at no point lied about your moral position. You kept yammering off what you see as going into a moral position, and that is precisely what I worked with, and precisely what I criticized. You, meanwhile, /still/ keep yelling ‘liar, liar!’ but are afraid to actually come through with said moral position. Gosh, I wonder why.

        No, I didn´t give a fuck about religion one way or the other until well into my teenage years

        Pardon me, you went through your atheist spasm in your teens, not at eight years old. Clearly when you were at your paramount point of reasoning – and it all went downhill from there.

        Well, you´ve been rather coy about expressing what exactly your views are (note how I, unlike you, actually bothered to ask you WHAT they are – several times actually in earlier threads – instead of just making shit up) but what little I´ve gleaned seems to be pretty ridiculous

        Now this is rich. Andy ‘gleans a little’ about what he thinks are my religious views, and yammers off about the quality of them, admittedly knowing fuck-all about them. I interact with Andy, evaluate his statements about morality, moral views and what goes into them, and he shits his pants.

        I have little concern for what you think of much of anything, Andy, save for the fun of illustrating the flaws and weak spots in it all. Too easy. Too fun.

        You know what – I do apologize for the bible-thumping comment, that one was actually completely uncalled for. But I can´t help pointing out that *you* complaining about being pigeonholed is rich – because you do it all the time.

        Pigeonholed? What I laughed at was your tendency – displayed not only in this thread, but in past ones – to repeatedly start lashing out against ‘bible-thumping’ and ‘Christianity’ when I thump no bibles, provide no biblical quotes, and hardly ever make arguments from Christian belief, save with other Christians – and even there, rather sparingly. What I do is take what you say and, when called for, target my criticisms at such. And then, inevitably, you wig out.

        No I´ve actually bothered to read at least some of the books from this field (and no, not only Peter Singer et al.) and I didn´t try to lecture people on it before I did so.

        You are doing a marvelous job of obscuring your knowledge.

        I don´t give a flying fuck about your unreflected ad hoc definitions.

        Then it’s a good thing that the criticisms I’ve made even thus far apply broadly to what’s being discussed. Yes, I know you love to consult those ‘brief only summaries’ for your expertise. There’s more to it all.

        That literally made me squirm, seriously

        Once again, Andy, I may wink here and there, but your full-blown smiley-spasm complete with the tremendously forced ‘lols’ simply didn’t compare.

        Like I said, it’s the best you’ve got. Oh, that and jumping from shadow to shadow when it comes to actually laying out the moral view you have and which you suggest my criticisms do not touch. Let’s see if that’s really the case – and if your revealing said view doesn’t just make matters even worse for your positions.

      • By the way, in advance of seeing if you’ll actually go ahead and produce your view, I’m going to deal with a couple of selections from your trio in advance.

        You laid out subjective universalism, ideal observer theory, and utilitarianism. I laid out an argument meant to show that on a view of morality where the subjective reigned supreme, then – given the scenario I laid out, complete with a being I do not believe in, and an ethical theory I reject along with a metaphysical view I reject – one would be rationally compelled to choose the very thing you said you would not choose.

        Let’s take utilitarianism broadly. Now, I could point out that on a materialist system the area you want to maximize comes down to subjective whim ultimately, along with the decision of whether or not to embrace utilitarianism to begin with. But I’m going illustrate something else here: a good share of what utilitarianism is typically concerned with (how best to organize society in light of the given choice of what to maximize) is irrelevant for the example I pointed out. Deus A is giving you a binary choice, and you’re at the mercy of Deus A – and if your utilitarian view is to maximize happiness, then capitulation falls out straightaway; the only happiness you have control over in that case is your own. Or, you’re going to have to argue that changing your mind about sodomy outweighs literal eternal damnation – and that will be a sight to behold.

        Ideal observer theory? Right back to the problems of, on materialism, determining what should constitute an ideal observer – which in turn stumbles on back to the wholly subjective. Even with that put aside, good luck convincingly arguing for an ideal observer who would decide that eternal damnation is preferable to pleasure with an at most temporarily biting change of heart on the morality of sodomy. Any attempt to conceive of an ideal observer who would choose eternal torment in that situation will be a sight to behold – and the ideal observer has to deal with the hand you have been dealt, not the hand you wish you had.

      • Dear Darwin, Andy. Do you ever stop lying? Or do you just get some weird erotic thrill out of being so exposed?

        I’ve quoted you time and again where you laid out what pieces go into your meta-ethical view, what you prioritize, what you think is essential.

        Yeah… No. Actually, I stated how I believe moral judgments are made in general, giving an account that covers virtually all meta-ethical theories without even trying to explain which one specifically I´d subscribe to (because that wasn´t the point and that also had not been asked in the comment I replied to).
        You read that, went on to make shit up that doesn´t follow from anything I´ve ever written in any way, shape or form, and repeated these lies over and over and over and over and over again – with me pointing out that you are making shit up out of thin air every single time you repeated this lie.
        Then, after repeating the same lie seven times, you finally tried to quote something I actually said and claimed that your lies follow from what I said, which was also a lie, as I´ve shown here:
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7764

        I took that information and went right ahead with a criticism of the view you were outlining. Your sole response up until this point – sole response – has been to go ‘Crude is lying! That’s not my view!

        1. crude has been lying – serially – as a matter of fact:
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7764
        2. You didn´t criticize the view I was outlining. Since the view I was outlining was regarding how Andy believes moral judgments are being made by people in *general*, and since didn´t even try to explain how I make them *specifically*, it is completely impossible that you ever criticized my actual views, because you could not have known them, and you never bothered to ask what they are until after lying about them for four hours straight:
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7764

        I can hardly be blamed, Andy, for criticizing what you give me, if you forever say ‘b-b-but there’s more, I just won’t tell you!’

        Yeah, know what – why don´t you demonstrate that you have ever once in this thread criticized ANYTHING I actually said instead of making shit up that doesn´t follow from anything I´ve ever written in any way, shape or form. So far, all I´ve seen is lies like those – ad nauseam:
        “- “In other words, we’re going to use Andy’s morality here, where what is ‘good’ is wholly subjective: strongly feeling that X is good is as ‘good’ as it gets.”
        – “what determines the morality of an act is, exclusively, his subjective view of said act. If Andy 1 thinks something is moral, it’s moral. If Andy 1 thinks something is immoral, it’s immoral.”
        – “A scary world for Andy Schueler – people reasoning about morality, and coming to conclusions. Why, even changing their emotions in the process, rather than letting their emotions be their sole guide.”

        Go ahead crude, show us one – ONE – one single instance of you actually reading what I said about morality, quoting it, and proceeding to criticize something that at least remotely resembles what I actually said.
        Since I actually read what you wrote so far (well, at least the BS I´m replying to) I know that that is a rethorical question because you never once did so – because you are not actually interested in anything I have to say and you would be too ignorant to understand it in any case given how you have repeatedly demonstrated to be blissfully unaware of even the most basic terminology used in moral philosophy, as illustraded here:
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7764
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7762
        (well, and pretty much in every other comment of this thread).

        Holy hell, kid. I know that you went all the way to the wikipedia and looked at the categories these views were placed under – but you do realize that arguments can show that such views ultimately do not achieve what they hope to achieve, and may well collapse into another category altogether?

        Yeah, well, we could have tried to have an actual discussion, an actual discussion where you don´t just lie your ass off but rather asked me what my position re morality is before lying about it. We could have discussed the weak points of the IMO best subjectivist and realist approaches (that would be van den Berg and Singer respectively btw, not that you´d care or would understand if you´d cared) and discuss whether theistic approaches like, say, divine commant theory, actually solve these problems and actually deliver what they claim to deliver (hey, guess what, there are actual arguments against those positions as well! Who would have thought?!?).
        But no, you just could not resist the overwhelming urge to be an insufferable vicious lying scumbag, as always (srsly, is this some kind of compensation for not being allowed to watch porn, masturbate or have recreational sex outside of marriage? If so, you are not handling the frustration well, to put it at its mildest).
        This could be an interesting discussion, but not with you, because you are too lazy to read up on even just the very basics of the issue at hand and because you are (ironically, given the topic that is being discussed) way too vicious to focus for a few minutes and make a coherent point instead of flinging shit at your neighbour.

        I´ve started to read the next two paragraphs of your ramblings but it seems that you devolved so far into semi-coherent viciousness again that any rational point you might have tried to make is lost in an ocean of malice.

      • Let’s take utilitarianism broadly. Now, I could point out that on a materialist system the area you want to maximize comes down to subjective whim ultimately

        What you want to maximize would depend on whatever premises you make regarding “goodness” and “utility”. It would be absolutely trivial to adopt a thomist view of “goodness” and reframe utilitarianism based on that, in which case “utility” is an expression of how effective an action is at leading people to God. And if one were to do that, the resulting moral propositions would be a) independent of minds and b) objectively true or false (neither of which would be true under most theistic conceptions of what morality is, including the most popular one – divine command theory).
        Framing utilitarianism based on different premises means just that, you use different premises – and whatever premises you use, the conclusions cannot possibly be better than the premises they are based on. But if the premises are true, the resulting moral propositions are objectively true and mind-independent facts as well (again, they wouldn´t be under most theistic conceptions of what morality is).
        So you are left with saying that the premises you would use are objectively true while any conceivable alternative premises would be necessarily “subjective whims”, and with that, you have just burdened yourself with a pretty impressive burden of proof, because you not only have to demonstrate that the premises you would use (I assume that they would be thomistic conceptions of what “goodness”, “love” etc. is) are not merely objectively true (not just plausible, not just likely, not just true beyond any reasonable doubt, but rather objectively and absolutely true), but you are not done yet, after you have accomplished this feat, you have to proceed to show that all alternative premises are not merely questionable, but rather nothing but “subjective whims”.
        Given that your conception of what a “subjective whim” is, seems to be that everything that is not unquestionably true is necessarily a subjective whim, I´m curious to see how you plan to avoid the Münchhausen trilemma – because if you can´t avoid it, your premises *might* be “better” than alternative premises, but they wouldn´t be qualitatively different from alternative premises in that they also are at best questionably true and not unquestionably true, which means that, according to your own standards, your moral views are nothing but subjective whims.
        Congratulations.

        Or, you’re going to have to argue that changing your mind about sodomy outweighs literal eternal damnation – and that will be a sight to behold.

        No, if the premise would be that utility amounts to wellbeing, then changing your mind would be the best choice, if it could be done (which it couldn´t unless you adopt a rather extreme and transparently false stance on doxastic voluntarism)
        While we are talking about stupid counterfactuals, if Church tradition would teach that the eucharist does not have to be consumed, but rather first masturbated on and then consumed, would you do it?

        Ideal observer theory? Right back to the problems of, on materialism, determining what should constitute an ideal observer – which in turn stumbles on back to the wholly subjective.

        No, in fact ideal observer theory would be almost indistinguishable from divine command theory both in terms of moral ontology (moral propositions would amount to universal mind-dependent facts in both cases, which would be necessarily true given an ideal observer, and potentially fallible + at best approximatively true given any other observer) and moral epistemology (in that moral questions are not being resolved by the ideal observer itself, but rather by other observers).
        This would still be true if one were to grant the theist practically his entire case, even if one were to make it extra easy for the theist and grant things that no mainstream denomination actually believes – that the Bible is not just “God´s word in human words” or some crap like that but rather *literally* God´s word + further grant that the transmission of the biblical manuscripts + translations of them is either perfect or negligibly far away from being perfect + further grant that the holy spirit 100% reliably aids God´s servants in interpreting the meaning of scripture and so on and so forth, even if one were to grant all that and more (and there is no reason to grant any of it) – divine command theory would still be pragmatically extremely similar to ideal observer theory, because for the vast majority of everyday moral question, there is no clear statement that *directly* addresses this *specific* question, so we are back to non-ideal observers imagining what an ideal observer would choose, in other words: pragmatically there is no difference at all.
        The problems of ideal observer theory are virtually always the same in divine command theory, but it doesn´t suffer from many of the flaws that divine command theory has – the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, becomes a liability and proponents of divine command theory have to explain how divine commandments that were given to ancient cultures (and that would have to be universal given divine command theory) can contradict moral truths accepted by later cultures, including moral truths that are acknowledged by virtually all christians, including those that subscribe to divine command theory (especially issues regarding freedom of speech and religion, equality of different ethnic groups etc.pp.), turning God into a powerful child that commands based on his subjective whims would solve this conceptual problem, but that option is not on the table, and that´s just one of the problems that divine command theory has but ideal observer theory doesn´t.

      • Andy,

        It would be absolutely trivial to adopt a thomist view of “goodness” and reframe utilitarianism based on that, in which case “utility” is an expression of how effective an action is at leading people to God.

        Absolutely not, since a Thomist view of “goodness” is wrapped up in metaphysical and moral considerations considerations that exclude the utilitarian mindset altogether. You can’t boil it down to the question of ‘how effective an action is at leading people to God’ and use that as the sole criteria for determining the rightness or wrongness of an action – because the rightness and wrongness of an action is already going to be determined by another set of criteria altogether. If telling a lie would manifestly ‘lead more people to God’, the Thomist can’t get away with that. That leaves Thomism incompatible with utilitarianism, unless you change utilitarianism to be pretty well unrecognizable as such anyway.

        What’s more, I’m pointing out something – your response here is almost entirely a non-seq with regards to my claim: that all the talk of ‘Oh I would choose eternal damnation over changing my view about sodomy’ doesn’t cash out as rational in the situation I’m describing, which includes a metaphysical view that’s incorrect and that I do not subscribe to, as well as a view of God that’s likewise. Embrace utilitarianism if you like, embrace any other view where the ‘right thing to do’ is ultimately a subjective question because all ‘good’ is is a wholly subjective determination – you’re going to end up exactly where I said you’d end up: capitulating to Deus A, because it’s the rational thing to do, and if it’s not ‘good’ then and there, it damn well will become it anyway, given said stipulations.

        So all that (very popular) talk about how one would be defiant towards a being like that and choose damnation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s all a lark.

        No, if the premise would be that utility amounts to wellbeing, then changing your mind would be the best choice, if it could be done (which it couldn´t unless you adopt a rather extreme and transparently false stance on doxastic voluntarism)

        No, it could be done if you so much as ask the question ‘Is it possible for a human to change their mind about a given conviction, even a deep conviction?’ It’s not as if this is the stuff of magic – or, for that matter, that people only change their minds due purely to sincere reflection. What’s transparently false is this idea of human beings as having what can only be described as magical moral convictions that cannot and will not change over time, regardless of influence, or even intention on their own part, particularly given the world that I’m hypothetically stipulating to begin with.

        At most what you could mean is that people can’t change their minds instantly, on the drop of a hat. But the time frame doesn’t matter for the purposes of the example – hence my saying, take a billion years to change your mind if you like. Really, even taking a hundred years doesn’t pass the smell test given what’s on offer.

        No, in fact ideal observer theory would be almost indistinguishable from divine command theory both in terms of moral ontology (moral propositions would amount to universal mind-dependent facts in both cases, which would be necessarily true given an ideal observer, and potentially fallible + at best approximatively true given any other observer) and moral epistemology (in that moral questions are not being resolved by the ideal observer itself, but rather by other observers).

        No, moral propositions would not amount to universal mind-dependent facts, because those moral propositions only become moral propositions not based on what those facts are or aren’t, but based on the subjective view taken of those facts. And yes, you can take the subjective view that one’s subjective view should be based on such and such objective facts, but that’s still going to collapse right on back to a situation where the subjective view is precisely what not only matters, but what determines morality to begin with – such that if you change the view, you change the morality, and there are effectively no restrictions on changing the view.

        Part of the issue with the ideal observer is that it’s a thought which has to be constructed to begin with, and when you’re dealing with a world where the only thing that really matters is the subjective views of those involved, the ideal observer you’re going to create is going to be as arbitrary as anything else.

        And once again, I’m going to point out – what I’ve been going after is the claim that someone could rationally choose ‘damnation’ in the scenario I provided, with the stipulations I outlined. I’ve taken on a tougher argument here: I not only have questioned people’s sincerity, I’m arguing that the rational choice, even the ‘good’ choice, on a wholly subjective view and in that stipulated world, is to make the very choice that some people – including yourself – grandstand over and reject. Walk into the situation with utilitarianism if you like, walk into it with ideal observer theory if you like – the result is exactly what I said it was before.

        Aside from those 2 of 3 systems, you’ve implied an impossibility of changing one’s mind about a given conviction, intentionally or not. I think I’ve shown that’s absurd and not going to work in the case. Now you can rant about how Deus A is a monster, a maniac, a terrible being, and whatever else you like. I won’t even argue against that. But at that point, it’s all wind – it truly does not matter for the purposes of my claim. Best of all? It’s just another subjective judgment anyway! Deus A is morally pure if you so much as decide Deus A is exactly that.

      • Absolutely not, since a Thomist view of “goodness” is wrapped up in metaphysical and moral considerations considerations that exclude the utilitarian mindset altogether. You can’t boil it down to the question of ‘how effective an action is at leading people to God’ and use that as the sole criteria for determining the rightness or wrongness of an action – because the rightness and wrongness of an action is already going to be determined by another set of criteria altogether. If telling a lie would manifestly ‘lead more people to God’, the Thomist can’t get away with that. That leaves Thomism incompatible with utilitarianism, unless you change utilitarianism to be pretty well unrecognizable as such anyway.

        Making no exceptions for lying makes sense given the assumption that God *is* truth and that thus a lie cannot lead to God, Aquinas did allow for exceptions when it comes to other sins, e.g. stealing when it becomes a “necessity” or killing (a “just” war). Aquinas criteria of what constitutes a justification for war are in fact entirely consistent with a utilitarian approach to “goodness” with “good” = “God”:
        “First, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. (Proper Authority is first: represents the common good: which is peace for the sake of man’s true end—God.)
        Second, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain (for example, “in the nation’s interest” is not just) or as an exercise of power. (Just Cause: for the sake of restoring some good that has been denied. i.e., lost territory, lost goods, punishment for an evil perpetrated by a government, army, or even citizen population.)
        Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. (Right Intention: an authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.)”
        => That is just utilitarianism with different premises, nothing less, nothing more.

        What’s more, I’m pointing out something – your response here is almost entirely a non-seq with regards to my claim: that all the talk of ‘Oh I would choose eternal damnation over changing my view about sodomy’ doesn’t cash out as rational in the situation I’m describing, which includes a metaphysical view that’s incorrect and that I do not subscribe to, as well as a view of God that’s likewise. Embrace utilitarianism if you like, embrace any other view where the ‘right thing to do’ is ultimately a subjective question because all ‘good’ is is a wholly subjective determination

        I repeat my challenge:
        You seem to claim that a moral argument based on premises that are not unquestionably true amount to “subjective whims”, I claim that this makes your own moral views “subjective whims” according to your own criteria of what a subjective whim is.
        You can easily prove me wrong, I´ll grant you for the sake of the argument that thomism is logically valid, now, all you have to do is show that it is also unquestionably sound. That is, you need to come up with final proofs for the premises that are required to get thomism off the ground. Which obviously requires a way to avoid the Münchhausen trilemma, without that, your premises logically cannot be unquestionably true, no matter how plausible they are, even if you´d manage to estalish them beyond any reasonable doubt – “unquestionably true” would still be an impossible goal to achieve unless you find a way to avoid the Münchhausen trilemma.
        But that´s the goal you have chosen for yourself, given that you classify morality based on any other premises as “subjective whims”, so, have fun meeting the burden of proof that you have chosen for yourself.
        Until you do that, enjoy your “objective moral truths” aka subjective whims.
        Btw, should you now pull the “self-evident” or “faith” cards for your premises, I´ll just do the same, and point out that since neither one of us is able to provide *final* proofs for the premises we rely on wrt morality, and you consider my views to be “subjective whims”, your own views would be the exact same – subjective whims.

        So all that (very popular) talk about how one would be defiant towards a being like that and choose damnation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s all a lark.

        For the umpteenth time, “defiance” is a meaningless category, because I reject the very idea that you *could* do so even if you´d want to do so – and if you disagree, be my guest, it requires you to take an extremely unpopular and extremely hard to defend stance on doxastic voluntarism, so you´ve again burdened yourself with a rather heavy burden of proof.

        No, it could be done if you so much as ask the question ‘Is it possible for a human to change their mind about a given conviction, even a deep conviction?’ It’s not as if this is the stuff of magic – or, for that matter, that people only change their minds due purely to sincere reflection. What’s transparently false is this idea of human beings as having what can only be described as magical moral convictions that cannot and will not change over time, regardless of influence, or even intention on their own part, particularly given the world that I’m hypothetically stipulating to begin with.

        Strawman. What you would need to show is not that beliefs, or strong beliefs / convictions, can change – because no one doubts that they can – you´d need to show that you can choose to believe the negation of one of your current beliefs not based on any new information you have aquired, and not based on any new experiences safe for one – being tortured for not changing your mind. Maybe that would actually work in practice, but again, if a serial killer would catch you and torture you until you change your mind and start to genuinely belief that this serial killer is a moral paragon and so noble, loving and selfless as to make Jesus look like Hitler (assuming he could evaluate whether you genuinely believe what you claim to believe), I am rather certain that this is a choice you could not make, unless the torture would drive you insane (and I refuse to call insane thoughts “genuine beliefs”).

        No, moral propositions would not amount to universal mind-dependent facts, because those moral propositions only become moral propositions not based on what those facts are or aren’t, but based on the subjective view taken of those facts.

        That is what mind-dependent (“dependent”, not “INdependent”) means, and it doesn´t change under theism, given divine command theory, there are no moral facts that exist independently of moral agents.

        And yes, you can take the subjective view that one’s subjective view should be based on such and such objective facts, but that’s still going to collapse right on back to a situation where the subjective view is precisely what not only matters, but what determines morality to begin with – such that if you change the view, you change the morality, and there are effectively no restrictions on changing the view.

        And this is in no way different with divine command theory, when Jesus says “turn the other cheek”, the morality derived from divine commands changes compared to the status quo so far.

        Part of the issue with the ideal observer is that it’s a thought which has to be constructed to begin with, and when you’re dealing with a world where the only thing that really matters is the subjective views of those involved, the ideal observer you’re going to create is going to be as arbitrary as anything else.

        Assuming I have a thousand dollars, and you also have a thousand dollars, but you claim that you have a friend who is infinitely rich, this friend has been gone for a long time but you believe that he will return in the future – but you don´t know when, and if he returns, he will give you all the money that you want. Would that make you richer than me? No. It would in theory – if I accept your premise, but in practice, there is no difference what-so-ever.
        It is no different with ideal observers, Jesus doesn´t come to us and tells us the correct answer to moral questions – he doesn´t tell us if the war on drugs is moral, he doesn´t tell us if and how we should intervene in ukranian politics, he doesn´t tell us if abortion is justifiable under some circumstances. Divine command theorists have no divine commands to work with for the specific issues at hand, they look at issue, consider the issue in the context of past divine commands that have been given according to their beliefs, and make a moral judgments based on this reasoning process. There is pragmatically absolutely no difference to ideal observer theory – saying “but we actually have an ideal observer, he´s not here right now, but he might come back any second!!” is exactly as convincing as telling that you are richer than I am in the hypothetical scenario above.

        Aside from those 2 of 3 systems, you’ve implied an impossibility of changing one’s mind about a given conviction, intentionally or not.

        No, I didn´t. I said that it would be impossible in that situation. Convictions obviously change (rarely) and beliefs change rather often – due to experiences, new information, new arguments, meeting new people, experienced new situations etc.pp. – changing a conviction, *sincerely*, no lip service, a sincere change of heart, based on nothing but the experience of continuously being tortured for not changing your mind, is exactly as absurd as the serial killer example above.

        It’s just another subjective judgment anyway!

        Again, your view of what a “subjective judgment” is, seems to be that if your premises are not unquestionably true, your premises are mere subjective whims.
        So, have fun meeting the burden of proof you have chosen for yourself (see above), and until then – enjoy your subjective whims aka objective moral values.

      • Andy,

        Making no exceptions for lying makes sense given the assumption that God *is* truth and that thus a lie cannot lead to God, Aquinas did allow for exceptions when it comes to other sins, e.g. stealing when it becomes a “necessity” or killing (a “just” war).

        First off, it’s not an assumption – it’s something that’s argued for.

        Second, you’re mistaken about the context – it’s not as if ‘sin is okay’ in those situations. You’re not a murderer, you’re not even violating a commandment, if you kill in self-defense.

        Aquinas criteria of what constitutes a justification for war are in fact entirely consistent with a utilitarian approach to “goodness” with “good” = “God”:
        “First, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. (Proper Authority is first: represents the common good: which is peace for the sake of man’s true end—God.)
        Second, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain (for example, “in the nation’s interest” is not just) or as an exercise of power. (Just Cause: for the sake of restoring some good that has been denied. i.e., lost territory, lost goods, punishment for an evil perpetrated by a government, army, or even citizen population.)
        Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. (Right Intention: an authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.)”
        => That is just utilitarianism with different premises, nothing less, nothing more.

        If you want to water utilitarianism down so far as to mean nothing more than ‘try your best’, be my guest. Utilitarianism has no concern for sin, and really, no concern for natures or essences either. Saying ‘okay okay but aside from all the differences if you focus on a narrow question it’s kinda-sorta similar to utilitarianism’ isn’t exactly the most moving point here.

        I repeat my challenge:
        You seem to claim that a moral argument based on premises that are not unquestionably true amount to “subjective whims”, I claim that this makes your own moral views “subjective whims” according to your own criteria of what a subjective whim is.

        First off, that’s not a challenge – that’s a claim.

        Second, I have nowhere said that ‘a moral argument based on premises that are not unquestionably true amount to subjective whims’. Nowhere. It’s not as if the systems under question are ones where people are studying nature and trying to guess at what the objectively true and distinct moral system is and maybe they’re wrong and maybe they’re not, or they’re studying to try and learn exactly that. Instead, insofar as we are dealing with subjective systems, the subjective IS all that matters. It’s not a matter of there being a possibility that you are wrong – what matters is what follows if you are taken to be right about the nature of morality.

        You can easily prove me wrong, I´ll grant you for the sake of the argument that thomism is logically valid, now, all you have to do is show that it is also unquestionably sound.

        Absolute bullshit. I nowhere said or implied this, and it goes against my own repeatedly stated views of philosophy and metaphysics besides. Go ahead and try to quote me to that effect from this thread – good luck.

        Which is why the Munchausen trilemma doesn’t even apply here. Munchausen is concerned with acquiring knowledge, but we’re putting that aside. There’s no probable knowledge under dispute here – what’s under dispute is what we get on the assumption that certain claims are true. We don’t need to discuss acquiring knowledge in these hypotheticals.

        So, truly Andy – swing and a miss here. I don’t even know how in the world you pulled ‘Unless you are totally 100% certain your views are just subjective whims!’ out of anything I said.

        For the umpteenth time, “defiance” is a meaningless category, because I reject the very idea that you *could* do so even if you´d want to do so

        You reject the idea you could kneel to Deus A and agree to only espouse his views on sodomy? The context of the Desmond Tutu ref is pretty clear – it’s an act of will on Tutu’s part. He wasn’t making a claim about doxastic effing voluntarism.

        Maybe that would actually work in practice, but again, if a serial killer would catch you and torture you until you change your mind and start to genuinely belief that this serial killer is a moral paragon and so noble, loving and selfless as to make Jesus look like Hitler (assuming he could evaluate whether you genuinely believe what you claim to believe), I am rather certain that this is a choice you could not make, unless the torture would drive you insane (and I refuse to call insane thoughts “genuine beliefs”).

        Oh, so they aren’t because you’re stubborn? You’re a materialist, you’ve got severe trouble getting away with ‘thought’ at all, to say nothing of one belief being ‘genuine’ or not. Wait, let me guess: it’s a subjective criteria you embrace? Please tell us the wholly material structure of insanity and sanity.

        Better yet – what if the serial killer is a neuroscientist, and directly altered your brain to belief the way he wants. Now the belief is sane, because he went about it more directly? I think stubbornness is all you have here.

        But I’m largely putting materialism’s failures aside here anyway. I’m pointing out what happens when you’re on a system where the subjective is king.

        That is what mind-dependent (“dependent”, not “INdependent”) means, and it doesn´t change under theism, given divine command theory, there are no moral facts that exist independently of moral agents.

        It’s still subjective in the sense I’m talking about. It’s not like I accept Deus A here.

        Would that make you richer than me? No. It would in theory – if I accept your premise, but in practice, there is no difference what-so-ever.

        We’re dealing with a hypothetical situation here, Andy, not an actual one. If you walk down the road where you suggest that I’m saying the example with Deus A and Andy 1 is actual or eventual/certain after my saying otherwise as many times as I have, I won’t know hwat to say.

        It is no different with ideal observers, Jesus doesn´t come to us and tells us the correct answer to moral questions

        Sure he did, complete with a book. I suppose if you want to go Catholic, a book and apostolic tradition and all the rest too.

        No, I didn´t. I said that it would be impossible in that situation. Convictions obviously change (rarely) and beliefs change rather often – due to experiences, new information, new arguments, meeting new people, experienced new situations etc.pp. – changing a conviction, *sincerely*, no lip service, a sincere change of heart, based on nothing but the experience of continuously being tortured for not changing your mind, is exactly as absurd as the serial killer example above.

        Your sole defense on the serial killer example is ‘I refuse to accept that!’, and that is not much. Go on, tell me how the subjective views of a person you call ‘crazy’ are invalid compared to your own, based on… well, look at that. More subjective criteria. And once again, this isn’t ‘subjective’ in the sense that ‘You’re making a probablistic guess about the objective fact of the matter, it’s logically possible you’re wrong’. That’s not what’s going on here – the subjective is not your guess, it’s your ultimate.

        So, have fun meeting the burden of proof you have chosen for yourself (see above), and until then – enjoy your subjective whims aka objective moral values.

        You swung and miss entirely on this one, as I’ve pointed out above, based on a misunderstanding so absurd I can’t even begin to see where you made it.

        I gave an argument, a hypothetical situation, that illustrates something – when you work with the subjective and Tutu’s response, and all responses along those lines, are absurd on their own merits. You may not like it – call Deus A a monster. I won’t even object. But a view where the subjective reigns works some interesting results with monsters. A bit salvific, really – it can make monsters into saints and vice versa, without changing fact one about the monster. Impressive!

      • First off, it’s not an assumption – it’s something that’s argued for.

        I know. And if you go down that road, you choose the second horn of the Münchhausen trilemma. You have a premise and argue for that premise to establish it – an argument that will again rely on premises. Now, I´ll ask you to establish those premises. And I will keep asking such questions ad infinitum until you either a) more or less arbitrarily terminate the chain of proof followed by proof for the proof and so on or b) declare some of the premises to be self-evident or axiomatic or c) start engaging in circular reasoning.
        There is no way around this, at least no known one. So, unless you find such a novel way, your views logically cannot be unquestionably true – at best they could be true beyond any reasonable doubt, but they wouldn´t be qualitatively different from, say, Singer´s views re morality, questionably true at best, no matter how well supported.
        And then, you have to face the fact that your “objective moral values” are in fact “subjective whims”, not based on my standards (I actually do find what little I´ve read regarding Thomism to be eminently reasonable), but based on your own standards of what constitutes a “subjective whim”.

        Second, you’re mistaken about the context – it’s not as if ‘sin is okay’ in those situations. You’re not a murderer, you’re not even violating a commandment, if you kill in self-defense.

        War kills innocents, always has, always will. And both sides in a war kill innocents, always have, always will. Killing innocents is not “self-defense”. Aquinas provides a justification for doing that, a justification that might well have come from Peter Singer – because Singer reaches the exact same conclusions regarding war, based on different premises.

        If you want to water utilitarianism down so far as to mean nothing more than ‘try your best’, be my guest. Utilitarianism has no concern for sin,

        No. Utilitarianism concerns itself with utility, and I´m not watering down the concept at all by basing it on a different premise of what “goodness” means. In fact, I´d reach identical conclusions to those that Aquinas reached for surprisingly many moral questions.

        First off, that’s not a challenge – that’s a claim.

        Yup, because the challenge came after what you quoted.

        Second, I have nowhere said that ‘a moral argument based on premises that are not unquestionably true amount to subjective whims’.

        Cool. So go ahead and define the term “subjective whim” and answer these questions: is Peter Singer´s morality (just assume for the sake of the argument that he is an average utilitarian (he isn´t really but that´s irrelevant for the context here)) based on “subjective whims”? And, why did you repeatedly insist that my moral views are based on subjective whims despite knowing nothing about them beyond the fact that they do not rely on theism?

        Nowhere. It’s not as if the systems under question are ones where people are studying nature and trying to guess at what the objectively true and distinct moral system is and maybe they’re wrong and maybe they’re not, or they’re studying to try and learn exactly that. Instead, insofar as we are dealing with subjective systems, the subjective IS all that matters. It’s not a matter of there being a possibility that you are wrong – what matters is what follows if you are taken to be right about the nature of morality.

        That is completely irrelevant for anything you said so far. Your moral conclusions will be true if your reasoning is valid and your premises are true – that is a completely trivial insight. So, again, why do you keep insisting that moral views that are based on different premises than yours have to be “subjective whims”?

        Absolute bullshit. I nowhere said or implied this, and it goes against my own repeatedly stated views of philosophy and metaphysics besides. Go ahead and try to quote me to that effect from this thread – good luck.

        Cool. Then my apologies for misrepresenting you. And for the third time:
        Why do you think and claim that my moral views are subjective whims but yours are not?

        Which is why the Munchausen trilemma doesn’t even apply here. Munchausen is concerned with acquiring knowledge, but we’re putting that aside. There’s no probable knowledge under dispute here – what’s under dispute is what we get on the assumption that certain claims are true. We don’t need to discuss acquiring knowledge in these hypotheticals.

        This is nonsensical. If a moral proposition is true, then it is true – if you are making an argument with the conclusion that murder is wrong, based on logically valid steps and true premises, then murder IS morally wrong. If I make an argument with the conclusion that murder is wrong, based on logically valid steps and true premises, then murder IS morally wrong.
        I cannot provide final proofs for my premises, you cannot provide final proofs for my premises, you claim that my conclusions are subjective whims while yours are not – why?

        You reject the idea you could kneel to Deus A and agree to only espouse his views on sodomy?

        Are you aware of the difference between lip service and sincerely changing your mind? (that is not a rethorical question, I am genuinely unsure if you are aware of there being a difference between the two given what you´ve said so far)

        Oh, so they aren’t because you’re stubborn? You’re a materialist,

        Physicalist actually, not that it would matter here.

        you’ve got severe trouble getting away with ‘thought’ at all,

        And I´m sure you are well-versed in materialist philosophy of mind and more than qualified to make such a statement.

        to say nothing of one belief being ‘genuine’ or not. Wait, let me guess: it’s a subjective criteria you embrace?

        Interesting, I was thinking so far that “lip service” means claiming that you believe x while in fact having either no opinion on x or being undecided on x or believing ¬x. While a “sincere” belief would be claiming to believe x while actually believing x. It never occured to me that the meaning of “lip service” completely changes because Jesus (or because Thomism or because Nirvana or because Platonism or because [insert idea incompatible with materialsim here]). But I´m sure you can clear up that misconception.

        Better yet – what if the serial killer is a neuroscientist, and directly altered your brain to belief the way he wants. Now the belief is sane, because he went about it more directly? I think stubbornness is all you have here.

        Wait, so you define the serial killer as having the power to change your beliefs, and derive from this conclusion that the serial killer could thus change your beliefs, which is beautifully circular, but what the hell is your point here?

        We’re dealing with a hypothetical situation here, Andy, not an actual one. If you walk down the road where you suggest that I’m saying the example with Deus A and Andy 1 is actual or eventual/certain after my saying otherwise as many times as I have, I won’t know hwat to say.

        So what is your hypothetical situation *exactly* and what does it have to do with reality?

        Sure he did, complete with a book. I suppose if you want to go Catholic, a book and apostolic tradition and all the rest too.

        Cool. Then please point me to the Bible verse that directly and explicitly deals with the question of whether the war on terror is moral (strange I´ve never seen any talk about american politics in the Bible at all…)

        Your sole defense on the serial killer example is ‘I refuse to accept that!’, and that is not much. Go on, tell me how the subjective views of a person you call ‘crazy’ are invalid compared to your own, based on… well, look at that. More subjective criteria. And once again, this isn’t ‘subjective’ in the sense that ‘You’re making a probablistic guess about the objective fact of the matter, it’s logically possible you’re wrong’. That’s not what’s going on here – the subjective is not your guess, it’s your ultimate.

        Ok, now I´m positively certain that you have no idea what “subjective” even means.

      • Andy,

        I know. And if you go down that road, you choose the second horn of the Münchhausen trilemma. You have a premise and argue for that premise to establish it – an argument that will again rely on premises. Now, I´ll ask you to establish those premises.

        Considering I’m not arguing for the truth of Thomism, or indeed any moral system here, why in the world would I care? Like I said, the Munchausen dilemma is irrelevant to this conversation. If you really want to change the conversation, feel free to try – at which point I will keep pointing that out ad infinitum myself. And honestly, why bother? It’d be a transparent topic shift.

        And then, you have to face the fact that your “objective moral values” are in fact “subjective whims”,

        No, they’re not. Again, you seem to think that my claim here is that your views are possibly wrong, therefore they are subjective whims, therefore they don’t matter. That’s not my point, and I’ve nowhere said it was. Again, I gave an example with Deus A of a being who was omnipotent, omniscient, but otherwise just a big powerful being about whom there were no moral facts other than ‘this is his whim’. Fallible understandings aren’t the issue here, because fallibility is barely coming into this topic at all – instead, it’s certainty, namely certainty about the given system in question, the given metaphysics and truths in play.

        So no, it’s not based on my own standards of what constitutes a subjective whim, since – again – the possibility of being wrong isn’t even an issue here.

        War kills innocents, always has, always will. And both sides in a war kill innocents, always have, always will. Aquinas provides a justification for doing that, a justification that might well have come from Peter Singer – because Singer reaches the exact same conclusions regarding war, based on different premises.

        Not at all, since you cannot intentionally target civilians and innocents with the purpose of ending a war quickly under just war doctrine, at least the ones I know and endorse, and that Aquinas would likely endorse. The utilitarian doesn’t care about ‘sin’ – go ahead and bomb those innocents if it leads to the ideal state of affairs. You can go ahead and rework utilitarianism to take into account of natures and essences and restrict your choices of what’s good and bad based on that and maybe kinda-sorta try to aim for a maximal aggregate result in some situations, but at that point you’ve just reworked utilitarianism into Thomism anyway.

        And again, I haven’t been arguing the truth of Thomism here, or any metaphysical view. I’m saying what is the case given a view of morality such that the final word on morality ultimately comes down to subjective whim, or if you don’t like the word ‘whim’, let’s say ‘view’.

        No. Utilitarianism concerns itself with utility, and I´m not watering down the concept at all by basing it on a different premise of what “goodness” means. In fact, I´d reach identical conclusions to those that Aquinas reached for surprisingly many moral questions.

        The surprisingly many, of ‘what little you read’? I suggest you read some more. Thomism doesn’t concern itself with maximizing aggregate utility, and Thomism’s commitments aren’t based on subjective whim.

        Yup, because the challenge came after what you quoted.

        There was not challenge to ‘repeat’.

        Cool. So go ahead and define the term “subjective whim” and answer these questions: is Peter Singer´s morality (just assume for the sake of the argument that he is an average utilitarian (he isn´t really but that´s irrelevant for the context here)) based on “subjective whims”? And, why did you repeatedly insist that my moral views are based on subjective whims despite knowing nothing about them beyond the fact that they do not rely on theism?

        I can answer both questions in a single stroke: I can conclude what your moral views are going to be based on – just as I can conclude what Singer’s views are based on – given what they say and my knowledge of their metaphysical views and commitments in this case. You’re a materialist by your own admission. That alone rules out a tremendous class of alternative views and really narrows down what you’re left with.

        That is completely irrelevant for anything you said so far. Your moral conclusions will be true if your reasoning is valid and your premises are true – that is a completely trivial insight.

        It’s not completely irrelevant, and a good portion of what I’m focusing on here is what ‘truth’ means in a system that ultimately comes down to that of a subjective view.

        Here’s a good way to think about what I’m saying here. You know the Euthyphro dilemma? It doesn’t just apply to a deity. It also applies to humans.

        Why do you think and claim that my moral views are subjective whims but yours are not?

        First off, where have I been making the claim that my moral views are superior? You keep gunning for my morality, and the most I’ve really bothered to say is that on Thomism, the end point of a moral view doesn’t lie with my subjective view, or even a deity’s subjective view. It’s about natures, and yes, objective natures.

        Second, go ahead and assume for the sake of argument that there’s no other alternative around. It doesn’t matter for the claim I’m making! Tutu’s still irrational and/or a bullshitter besides, and so is anyone else making claims along his lines.

        This is nonsensical. If a moral proposition is true, then it is true

        And if your premises always and unavoidably depend crucially on subjective say-so, then all the arguments in the world won’t change that.

        Are you aware of the difference between lip service and sincerely changing your mind? (that is not a rethorical question, I am genuinely unsure if you are aware of there being a difference between the two given what you´ve said so far)

        How can you be genuinely unsure when I’ve explicitly said that it may well take hundreds, even millions of years to do that in principle, and it doesn’t matter? Why do you think I brought up all that time you’d have to change your mind? Or what motivation you’d have to do that? What factors could go into play? What may damn well happen regardless?

        And I´m sure you are well-versed in materialist philosophy of mind and more than qualified to make such a statement.

        Deny it if you like, it’s not as if I’m expecting you to cop to my opinions here, but I’m being frank.

        Wait, so you define the serial killer as having the power to change your beliefs, and derive from this conclusion that the serial killer could thus change your beliefs, which is beautifully circular, but what the hell is your point here?

        No, what I pointed out was that when the truth about whether a serial killer is a horrible monster or a saint ultimately is one of subjective opinion, then the ability for a serial killer to crack open a skull and reprogram someone is sufficient to literally change the truth of his being a monster or a saint.

        So what is your hypothetical situation *exactly* and what does it have to do with reality?

        I’ve already laid out what it is exactly. You, for whatever reason, are not getting it – you keep bringing up irrelevancies, even after I explain why they’re irrelevant. What’s more, last I checked, you wouldn’t even explain what your own moral view is, much less why it’s immune to the criticisms I’m laying out.

        Cool. Then please point me to the Bible verse that directly and explicitly deals with the question of whether the war on terror is moral (strange I´ve never seen any talk about american politics in the Bible at all…)

        You won’t find any mention of the war on terror in the Constitution either, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some clear things to say about it. I’m not interested in a biblical argument here, and this entire front seems to turn crucially on the ‘But you don’t know with 100% certainty’ line that isn’t even relevant to my claims.

        Ok, now I´m positively certain that you have no idea what “subjective” even means.

        Subjective, related to subjectivity. I have to ask, seriously – are you an English As A Second Language case? It’s not that you don’t speak clearly, but you can speak clearly and still be thrown badly when it comes to terms like these.

  10. Considering I’m not arguing for the truth of Thomism, or indeed any moral system here, why in the world would I care? Like I said, the Munchausen dilemma is irrelevant to this conversation. If you really want to change the conversation, feel free to try – at which point I will keep pointing that out ad infinitum myself. And honestly, why bother? It’d be a transparent topic shift.

    Then what is your point? If we assume that your moral system is true, sidestepping the epistemology, then it is true, big surprise, given that we have just defined it to be true. Curiously, if I substitute “your” by “mine”, then it would amount to the same trivially true (and beautifully circular) statement. Yet mine are allegedly “subjective whims” while yours are allegedly “objective moral values” – why?

    No, they’re not. Again, you seem to think that my claim here is that your views are possibly wrong, therefore they are subjective whims, therefore they don’t matter. That’s not my point, and I’ve nowhere said it was. Again, I gave an example with Deus A of a being who was omnipotent, omniscient, but otherwise just a big powerful being about whom there were no moral facts other than ‘this is his whim’. Fallible understandings aren’t the issue here, because fallibility is barely coming into this topic at all – instead, it’s certainty, namely certainty about the given system in question, the given metaphysics and truths in play.

    Cool, so I define my moral views as “certainly true”, why is that a “subjective whim” while you pulling off the same stunt results in “objective moral values”?

    Not at all, since you cannot intentionally target civilians…

    Irrelevant, intentionally targetting civilians (e.g. the bombing of Dresden 1944) is not a necessary component of war, unintentionally killing civilians is a necessary component of war – always was, always will be. And those civilians are being sacrificed for the greater good – according to Singer, and according to Aquinas.

    You can go ahead and rework utilitarianism to take into account of natures and essences and restrict your choices of what’s good and bad based on that and maybe kinda-sorta try to aim for a maximal aggregate result in some situations, but at that point you’ve just reworked utilitarianism into Thomism anyway.

    Yup, because thomistic morality is nothing but utilitarianism with different premises.

    And again, I haven’t been arguing the truth of Thomism here, or any metaphysical view. I’m saying what is the case given a view of morality such that the final word on morality ultimately comes down to subjective whim, or if you don’t like the word ‘whim’, let’s say ‘view’.

    Again, I pull of the same stunt as you do, sidestep the epistemology, and merely define, say, Singer´s version of utilitarianism as true. Which would yield mind-independent moral facts that are objectively true.
    Yet this is a “subjective whim” / “subjective view” while you pulling off the same stunt results in “objective moral values”. Why?

    The surprisingly many, of ‘what little you read’? I suggest you read some more. Thomism doesn’t concern itself with maximizing aggregate utility, and Thomism’s commitments aren’t based on subjective whim.

    They sure didn´t appear to be based on subjective whim as most people would use the phrase, but as crude would use the phrase? Certainly – because no proposition could possibly not be a subjective whim according to how you use the phrase.

    I can answer both questions in a single stroke: I can conclude what your moral views are going to be based on – just as I can conclude what Singer’s views are based on – given what they say and my knowledge of their metaphysical views and commitments in this case. You’re a materialist by your own admission. That alone rules out a tremendous class of alternative views and really narrows down what you’re left with.

    Then we are left with two possibilities:
    1. Crude genuinely believes that the denial of theism necessarily entails the denial of philosophical realism.
    2. Crude doesn´t have the first clue about what the subjectivity / objectivity dichotomy even means and substitutes those terms with vague and meaningless ideas that bear no resemblance what-so-ever to how these terms are universally used within philosophy.
    Which one is it?
    If it is neither one, then I repeat my question: how can you know that my moral views (or Singer´s views) must be “subjective whims” based on knowing nothing about those positions beyond the fact that they deny theism?

    It’s not completely irrelevant, and a good portion of what I’m focusing on here is what ‘truth’ means in a system that ultimately comes down to that of a subjective view.

    Again, we face the same two alternatives regarding crude´s conception of what “subjective” means.

    Here’s a good way to think about what I’m saying here. You know the Euthyphro dilemma? It doesn’t just apply to a deity. It also applies to humans.

    Yeah, so what?

    First off, where have I been making the claim that my moral views are superior?

    Oh sorry, I assumed that you understand moral views which amount to “subjective whims” is a bad thing, but you apparently actually believe that such views are actually perfectly alright or even a good thing. Interesting.

    You keep gunning for my morality

    No, I ask you to justify your ad nauseam repeated claims that *my* views amount to “subjective whims” / “subjective views” while yours apparently do not.

    and the most I’ve really bothered to say is that on Thomism, the end point of a moral view doesn’t lie with my subjective view, or even a deity’s subjective view. It’s about natures, and yes, objective natures.

    Yeah… impressive! Go Thomism! No wait… in fact, the end point of moral reasoning from a utilitarian perspective amounts to objective mind-independent moral facts, that is in fact true (by definition) for any moral realist position – if the premises of the position are true and the reasoning valid, the conclusions are objective mind-independent moral facts. That is really not an advanced concept, that is 101 stuff.
    Further, you don´t even try to argue why subjectivist approaches are necessarily worse (again, assuming for the argument that one of them, say, divine command theory, are actually true) than realist approaches – I can easily see why a lack of universality can become problematic but why a realist approach per se is supposed to be in any way superior to a subjectivist approach is a mystery to me (and you certainly didn´t even provide a hint of an argument for that).
    If *this* is the reason for why you called my moral views “subjective whims” based on nothing more than knowing that they do not rely on theism, then you are shockingly ignorant of this subject. not even reaching an understanding of ethics that could be expected from a smart high school student. So I sure hope you have a better reason than this one.

    And if your premises always and unavoidably depend crucially on subjective say-so

    They don´t. Not for ANY realist approach, not for MOST subjectivist approaches. At most, they´d depend on it when you have a rather idiosyncratic understanding of what “subjective say-so” means and when you are *exclusively* talking about moral *epistemology*, not moral *ontology* – and then you again have the exact same problem with your thomist views that literally everyone else has as well, you know, the problem that you refuse to deal with by just defining your views as true for the sake of the argument and pretending (maybe not deliberately) that you therefore no longer have to deal with the epistemological problem.

    How can you be genuinely unsure when I’ve explicitly said that it may well take hundreds, even millions of years to do that in principle, and it doesn’t matter? Why do you think I brought up all that time you’d have to change your mind? Or what motivation you’d have to do that? What factors could go into play? What may damn well happen regardless?

    I really have no idea where you are aiming with this and I stopped caring, so I´ll just concede your point here – whatever it was.

    Deny it if you like, it’s not as if I’m expecting you to cop to my opinions here, but I’m being frank.

    Claiming that a materialist cannot really talk about thoughts at all because of the unsolved problems regarding materialist philosophy of mind is not “frank” – it´s hilariously naive. As if your position would have solved any of those problems and as if you didn´t have problems for which you have nothing even remotely resembling a solution. I don´t have anything resembling a complete model of intentionality or rationality, but your side doesn´t offer any solutions to those problems except for handwaving the problem away.
    Should I be “frank” and claim that you have no right to talk about a “will” because your position doesn´t have *anything* even remotely resembling a model of libertarian free will that isn´t transparently self-refuting? Or that you have no right to talk about “thoughts” given that the best model given Thomistic dualism you have to offer is:
    “Rational soul” → ?????? → Body?
    Being “frank” in such a way could be justified if your side actually has solutions which the other side lacks, and doesn´t have a truckload of huge problems of it´s own. But as it is, being “frank” in such a way is incredibly naïveté, at best.

    No, what I pointed out was that when the truth about whether a serial killer is a horrible monster or a saint ultimately is one of subjective opinion

    Strawman. Has nothing to do with ANY moral realist or subjectivist position.

    You won’t find any mention of the war on terror in the Constitution either, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some clear things to say about it.

    Oh, it has clear things to say about it? You don´t say! So, if we define the founding fathers as “ideal observers”, then we can finally get true answers about the morality of the war on terror! Yay!🙂 No wait… Wasn´t there something like this ongoing debates between originalists, textualists, prudentialists etc.pp.? Isn´t there an entire subject that deal with constitutional interpretation? No, wait…. INTERPRETATION?? Oh noes, we are right back to subjective whims😐

    I’m not interested in a biblical argument here, and this entire front seems to turn crucially on the ‘But you don’t know with 100% certainty’ line that isn’t even relevant to my claims.

    Cool, which amounts to conceding my point that ideal observer theory and divine command theory are pragmatically close to being indistinguishable.

    Subjective, related to subjectivity. I have to ask, seriously – are you an English As A Second Language case? It’s not that you don’t speak clearly, but you can speak clearly and still be thrown badly when it comes to terms like these.

    Well, as shown above, there are only two options, you are either confused about what the subjectivity/objectivity distinction itself means, or your are confused about philosophical realism.

    • And those civilians are being sacrificed for the greater good – according to Singer, and according to Aquinas.

      That’s a bold claim you’re making. Care to back it up?

      Nobody is being “sacrificed for the greater good” in Aquinas’s theology. If civilians are being killed then Aquinas would immediately say that it was immoral. If it’s “inevitable” that civilians die then Aquinas would say you’re fighting the war immorally. He probably would simply disagree with that statement.

      The point: You can claim he’s wrong, but it’s either incorrect or dishonest of you to claim that he believes that civilians dying is okay “for the greater good”.

      • Hi Malcolm,

        That’s a bold claim you’re making. Care to back it up?

        Nobody is being “sacrificed for the greater good” in Aquinas’s theology. If civilians are being killed then Aquinas would immediately say that it was immoral. If it’s “inevitable” that civilians die then Aquinas would say you’re fighting the war immorally. He probably would simply disagree with that statement.

        There is not a single war in the history of humankind where all participating sides did not kill at least some innocents – this is the nature of war. And Aquinas knew this, he was everything but stupid. If a war is not justifiable when it would involve innocents losing their lifes – then war is never justifiable.
        If we take the war against Nazi Germany for example, Aquinas would likely have supported the war itself, but not incidents like the bombing of Dresden or the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But without those incidents, there still would have been plenty of innocents that would have lost their lives as a consequence of the actions of ALL participating sides. Again, that is simply the nature of war, and it was never any different.
        The moral dilemma you are facing is that it is impossible to, say, stop the Nazis without your army killing at least some innocents – so you can either say that this loss is an unfortunate (to put it at its mildest) but necessary sacrifice, given that the alternative would mean that the Nazis win and a much greater number of people would die and suffer (and an even bigger number would live but grow up in a world where they are being indoctrinated by Nazi ideology), or you can say that killing innocents is never justified…. and let the Nazis win. That´s a true dichotomy, you have to choose one of those options.
        A utilitarian philosopher like Peter Singer would opt for fighting the Nazis (but I doubt that many would support the “moral bombing” of the british that deliberately targetted civilians, for example), and so would Aquinas – if you disagree, then tell me how you can interpret his text on “just wars” to not mean either that, or, alternatively, to mean that a war is *never* justifiable because the conditions under which it would be justifiable have nothing what-so-ever to do with reality.

        • Hmmmm, I think Aquinas would say that in a just war (using the doctrine he laid out) the unintentional (an important word) death of civilians is theoretically and unfortunately acceptable as long as nothing intrinsically immoral is done to bring about their death. I think that’s the relevant difference.

      • Hmmmm, I think Aquinas would say that in a just war (using the doctrine he laid out) the unintentional (an important word) death of civilians is theoretically and unfortunately acceptable as long as nothing intrinsically immoral is done to bring about their death. I think that’s the relevant difference.

        Yup, I´d agree completely. The key difference between thomistic morality and utilitarianism really seems to be that actions can be intrinsically immoral in thomistic morality but not in utilitarianism. In practice, that would rarely make a difference though I think. Lying would be a clear example here, given utilitarianism, lying could be morally permissible, but only in truly exceptional circumstances (so exceptional that the average person might never encounter them even once in their lifetime).
        Aquinas is quite clear that a lie with noble intent, even a lie with noble intent that could save someone from being harmed or losing their life, would still not be permissible (which, afaict, is due to the fact that “goodness” in thomism is equal to God and “doing good / loving your neighbor” means “leading people to God”, so if “God” = “truth”, lying obviously cannot possibly be good under any circumstances).
        So, in the classical example of you living in Nazi Germany and hiding Anne Frank in your attic, you would have to tell the Gestapo officers knocking at your door “Yes, I am indeed hiding a jewish girl Herr Sturmbannführer, she´s in my attic”, while it would be permissible to lie given utilitarianism.
        But that is an exception afaict, for most other morally relevant issues (e.g. stealing or killing innocents), they would be permissible given thomistic morality if they are “necessary”.
        In practice, the two do seem to be surprisingly similar to me (though I really haven´t read nearly enough about it to be certain, I just looked up some of the relevant parts about “goodness”, “truth”, “love”, “lying”, “war” etc. in the Summa Theologica – and I was actually really impressed, he has a very clear and concise style of writing (really not expected from a philosopher) and he is a very sharp thinker).

        • …or most other morally relevant issues (e.g. stealing or killing innocents), they would be permissible given thomistic morality if they are “necessary”.

          Huh? Since when?

          This is an odd post. You seem at first to understand a major relevant difference between utilitarianism and Thomism and then make an odd comment like this one, which doesn’t fit at all to me.

          KILLING civilians, who are innocent, is ALWAYS immoral. Civilians dying as a result of warfare may or may not be immoral depending on the specific circumstances.

      • So, in the classical example of you living in Nazi Germany and hiding Anne Frank in your attic, you would have to tell the Gestapo officers knocking at your door “Yes, I am indeed hiding a jewish girl Herr Sturmbannführer, she´s in my attic”, while it would be permissible to lie given utilitarianism.

        Absolutely, positively, expressly not. The fact that you can’t lie doesn’t mean that you’re forced to tell the truth to whoever asks it. And that’s not some esoteric bit – that is pretty basic with regards to Thomism and A-T in general.

      • Absolutely, positively, expressly not. The fact that you can’t lie doesn’t mean that you’re forced to tell the truth to whoever asks it. And that’s not some esoteric bit – that is pretty basic with regards to Thomism and A-T in general.

        Ah, so it would be permissible to just be silent if the Gestapo officer knocks at your door and asks you if you hide Jews? Yeah, that makes sense (no, really, it does).
        It would still be an exceptionally poor moral choice if you ask me, because just not saying anything in this situation would be about as suspicious a response as you could possibly give to the Gestapo (and lead to the arrest and execution of the Jews you are hiding with virtual certainty).

      • Hold on Andy – You’re the one making the claim here. Have you even quoted just war theory yet in this massive conversation? That’s a serious question, because I’ve missed it if you have.

        You have been claiming that you can use just war theory to justify making an order that you KNOW will lead to civilian deaths. I disagree – you can make an order that will quite POSSIBLY, in theory, lead to innocent civilian deaths, but you cannot make an order where you are absolutely sure that, based on your direct actions, civilians will die. These are important differences.

        Now you disagree, and claim your view is actually, contra to what literally almost every actual Thomist would agree with, that you can justify your views actually using natural law theory. But you haven’t done that. Why don’t you try to actually make the case, instead of claiming that you can?

        Ball is in your court there. Find Aquinas’s just war doctrine and use it to support the claim that you can make a direct order that you KNOW will DEFINITELY lead to the death of innocent civilians.

        For that matter, saying “I think the natural law view of the murderer at the door scenario is wrong because its ridiculous and unfair” isn’t an argument either.

    • Andy,

      Yet mine are allegedly “subjective whims” while yours are allegedly “objective moral values” – why?

      Who’s alleging it again? I may do so – but why do you keep on trying to change the subject? You concede that I’m not arguing for the truth of Thomism in this argument. I said, for the sake of argument, consider Thomism false – it doesn’t affect my point.

      Cool, so I define my moral views as “certainly true”, why is that a “subjective whim” while you pulling off the same stunt results in “objective moral values”?

      See above response. Where in my argument did I pull this stunt? Nowhere. Again: for the sake of argument, take Thomism to be entirely false. It doesn’t affect my point.

      You disagree?

      Irrelevant, intentionally targetting civilians (e.g. the bombing of Dresden 1944) is not a necessary component of war, unintentionally killing civilians is a necessary component of war – always was, always will be. And those civilians are being sacrificed for the greater good – according to Singer, and according to Aquinas.

      Malcolm has already asked you to provide the quote of Aquinas saying this. I note – you didn’t provide it.

      Either way, it’s irrelevant. Intentionally targeting civilians is entirely permissible on utilitarianism. Peter Singer permits a whole lot of things for the ‘greater good’ that Aquinas never would. If you tried to rework Utilitarianism to cover them, you’d be altering it beyond recognition.

      Yup, because thomistic morality is nothing but utilitarianism with different premises.

      Not at all, but again – you’re pivoting HARD here, and going after some subject, any subject, other than the one at hand. Why?

      Again, I pull of the same stunt as you do,

      Not at all. My stunt was to provide an argument against a claim you made, and which I saw similarly made by Desmond Tutu. I certainly never made this move of “defining Thomism as true”. I keep saying, I’m not discussing Thomism – assume Thomism is false. It’s irrelevant to my argument.

      Certainly – because no proposition could possibly not be a subjective whim according to how you use the phrase.

      Not at all. “The cat is on the mat.” No subjective whim there given an observation of a cat on a mat, unless we’re diving deep into the problems of materialism and meaning/intentionality, which I’ve put aside.

      If it is neither one, then I repeat my question: how can you know that my moral views (or Singer´s views) must be “subjective whims” based on knowing nothing about those positions beyond the fact that they deny theism?

      And I repeat my answer: I can conclude what your moral views are going to be based on – just as I can conclude what Singer’s views are based on – given what they say and my knowledge of their metaphysical views and commitments in this case. You’re a materialist by your own admission. That alone rules out a tremendous class of alternative views and really narrows down what you’re left with.

      Notice: what’s key here is embracing materialism. NOT denying theism. In fact I argue that materialism is entirely compatible with various forms of theism. None I think are true, or even care for, but they’re distinct things.

      Again, we face the same two alternatives regarding crude´s conception of what “subjective” means.

      Or you were confused and are now ashamed, or you’re misunderstanding something, or you’re getting desperate. I really don’t know, but I do know you’re now at the point where you want to talk about anything but what I’m arguing. Thomism, definitions, etc.

      By the way, should I take this to mean you concede that I am right, and the rational thing for Tutu to do is precisely what I said?

      Yeah, so what?

      So if the relevant prong of the dilemma leads to a distasteful result for a deity, it leads to a distasteful result for whatever takes the place of the deity – including a human, or community, or… etc.

      Oh sorry, I assumed that you understand moral views which amount to “subjective whims” is a bad thing, but you apparently actually believe that such views are actually perfectly alright or even a good thing. Interesting.

      You can’t even begin to read this off what I wrote. Whether they are a bad thing or a good thing is /irrelevant to my point/. They are what they are. They lead to what they lead to.

      You keep gunning for my morality

      No, I ask you to justify your ad nauseam repeated claims that *my* views amount to “subjective whims” / “subjective views” while yours apparently do not.

      Uh. That’s gunning for my morality. So, thanks for the concession I guess?

      I’m not defending Thomism here, since I don’t need to to make my point.

      Yeah… impressive! Go Thomism! No wait… in fact, the end point of moral reasoning from a utilitarian perspective amounts to objective mind-independent moral facts,

      Nope, because there are no moral facts before you decide they are, in fact, moral facts. If you decide they’re not moral facts, then voila – they are not moral facts. The end point isn’t with any ‘objective mind-independent moral fact’ but with that decision and view.

      Further, you don´t even try to argue why subjectivist approaches are necessarily worse (again, assuming for the argument that one of them, say, divine command theory, are actually true) than realist approaches

      You’re right, I don’t even try to argue that. Because that consideration is not relevant to my argument.

      This is like my pointing out that a bag of potato chips is high in sodium, having it insisted that they are not, and when I point out they are, angrily being told to defend the claim that pork rinds are healthy. But I didn’t say they were.

      If *this* is the reason for why you called my moral views “subjective whims” based on nothing more than knowing that they do not rely on theism,

      That is a pretty amazing misunderstanding considering my argument given in this conversation has been based around a (degenerate, in my view) small-g god. It’s theism. And I keep saying, it’s not the lack of theism which is directly relevant to my inferences, but the materialism. Again, those are not the same thing.

      They don´t. Not for ANY realist approach, not for MOST subjectivist approaches.

      In the sense I am talking about, they most certainly do.

      I really have no idea where you are aiming with this and I stopped caring, so I´ll just concede your point here – whatever it was.

      Well, at least there’s that.

      Claiming that a materialist cannot really talk about thoughts at all because of the unsolved problems regarding materialist philosophy of mind is not “frank” – it´s hilariously naive.

      You seem to be far more angry than amused.

      And I said you had severe trouble getting away with thought at all. Severe trouble. Yeah, I think at the end of the day materialism collapses into eliminative views (which are inane – sorry) or non-materialism.

      I don´t have anything resembling a complete model of intentionality or rationality,

      That’s putting it lightly.

      Should I be “frank” and claim that you have no right to talk about a “will” because

      Who said anything about ‘right to talk about’? I’ve spent quite a while here defending an aggressive but specific claim about what’s rational and “good” for Andy 1 to do in his interactions with Deus A. I brought up the materialist’s mental problems (ha ha) as an aside, then went on to say those considerations aren’t really important here anyway.

      Being “frank” in such a way could be justified if your side actually has solutions which the other side lacks,

      Oh good, then I was using it in a justified way.

      Not that it matters for my argument here.

      Strawman. Has nothing to do with ANY moral realist or subjectivist position.

      Unfortunately, it does.

      Oh, it has clear things to say about it? You don´t say! So, if we define the founding fathers as “ideal observers”, then we can finally get true answers about the morality of the war on terror! Yay!🙂 No wait… Wasn´t there something like this ongoing debates between originalists, textualists, prudentialists etc.pp.? Isn´t there an entire subject that deal with constitutional interpretation? No, wait…. INTERPRETATION?? Oh noes, we are right back to subjective whims

      No, we’re not. There’s a fact of the matter about what was originally meant by the Constitution documents in large part, though our ability to discover that original meaning may or may not be possible, and won’t necessarily be perfect. I mean, in my view anyway. I suppose if all meaning is derived then there’s no fact of the matter about anything at all.

      Cool, which amounts to conceding my point that ideal observer theory and divine command theory are pragmatically close to being indistinguishable.

      Not really, but I don’t particularly care.

      Well, as shown above, there are only two options, you are either confused about what the subjectivity/objectivity distinction itself means, or your are confused about philosophical realism.

      Or you’re just kind of bizarrely angry at this point while I’m calmly explaining my points, pointing out the weaknesses in your arguments, etc.

      So do let me ask again – you’d concede that Andy 1 would be rational to do precisely what I said he’d be rational to do?

      And while you’re at it, I’d love to see that quote from Aquinas where you can explicitly target and kill innocent people “for the greater good”. It’s in the summa somewhere, I’m sure.

      • Who’s alleging it again? I may do so – but why do you keep on trying to change the subject? You concede that I’m not arguing for the truth of Thomism in this argument. I said, for the sake of argument, consider Thomism false – it doesn’t affect my point.

        ….

        Not at all. My stunt was to provide an argument against a claim you made, and which I saw similarly made by Desmond Tutu. I certainly never made this move of “defining Thomism as true”. I keep saying, I’m not discussing Thomism – assume Thomism is false. It’s irrelevant to my argument.

        …..

        Not at all. “The cat is on the mat.” No subjective whim there given an observation of a cat on a mat, unless we’re diving deep into the problems of materialism and meaning/intentionality, which I’ve put aside.

        So the truth of thomism is completely irrelevant for your point, I still fail to see completely what your point even IS, I get that it has something to do with assuming that my moral views are true and considering the consequences of that, where exactly you are aiming with that is entirely unclear to me, and I already asked you to clarify – which you haven´t done.

        And despite me asking countless times, you still haven´t provided a justification for your ad nauseam repeated claims that my moral views amount to “subjective whims”, which you claim to be able to conclude based on nothing but the fact that you know that I am a materialist (again, physicalist actually, but I strongly doubt that this matters here).

        Now, given your answers, it has become obvious that you do not know what “subjectivity” vs “objectivity” even means – else you would never have made the inference of my moral views being “subjective whims” in the first place.
        I´ll quote Wikis definition of “objectivity”:
        “Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are “bias-free”; that is, existing without biases caused by, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject.”
        – And objective moral truths are, in fact, entirely consistent with materialism (or naturalism, or physicalism). ANY moral realist position, including any of tthose that is also a materialist position, posits that moral propositions can amount to mind-independent objective moral facts. If the premises of such a proposition are true, and the reasoning based on the premises logically valid, then the resulting conclusions are, by definition, mind-independent objective moral facts.
        And again, this is 101 material, in no way controversial (show me one publication by a theist philosopher who denies what I just said) and stuff that one could expect a smart high school student to be aware of.
        So, your ad nauseam repeated accusations that my moral views must be “subjective whims” / “wholly subjective” given my materialist (again, actually physicalist) views are entirely baseless, completely and utterly unsupported.

        But it gets worse, you consistently confused moral ontology and moral epistemology. This becomes obvious becomes by quotes like:
        “And if your premises always and unavoidably depend crucially on subjective say-so”
        – They don´t. My premises do not and there are VERY few moral positions where this claim of yours would be accurate. Given a realist position, there is no subjective component what-so-ever when it comes to their ontology (note that their ontology is completely different compared to the ontology of moral propositions given Thomism, but wrt objectivity, there is no difference whatsoever).
        The “subjective say-so” could at most be said about the moral epistemology, but only if your conception of what “subjective say-so” means, would entail that every moral reasoning process that has ever been made by any human being is nothing but “subjective say-so”.
        The moral reasoning of Joe Everybody would be “subjective say-so”, and the entire christian church tradition would be “subjective say-so”.

        And it still gets worse. Do not pretend that your accusations of my moral judgments (and that of every single materialist that ever lived) amount to “subjective whims”, is not a derogatory claim, to put it at its mildest.
        It was insulting and it was completely baseless. And this would still be true if I don´t adopt a realist stance on morality but rather a subjectivist stance.
        You didn´t present anything even remotely resembling an argument for why subjectivist positions are necessarily “subjective whims”. If a subjectivist position, say, divine command theory, were true – would be based on true premises – than valid reasoning based on those premises would result in true moral propositions. Those moral propositions would not be mind-independent, but they would be true, and they certainly wouldn´t be “whimsical”. Whether you did so deliberately or not, you quite literally insulted millions of christians whose moral views amount to a form of divine command theories as having moral convictions that amount to “subjective whims” – as if your average christian would not be extremely insulted by a claim that his conviction that murder is wrong is “whimsical”.

        So, in summary, you made completely baseless, insulting and ad nauseam repeated accusations about my moral views (and that of every materialist and countless christians), and, are demonstrably blissfully unaware of basic moral philosophy like distinctions between moral ontology and moral epistemology, and worse, apparently even unaware of what subjectivity / objectivity actually means.

        Nope, because there are no moral facts before you decide they are, in fact, moral facts. If you decide they’re not moral facts, then voila – they are not moral facts. The end point isn’t with any ‘objective mind-independent moral fact’ but with that decision and view.

        I marvel at this statement. Really. I do. EVERY moral realist and EVERY moral subjectivist position (except for one) makes EXACTLY the decision you mention in the first sentence here – moral realism and moral subjectivism posit the existence of moral facts, the former posits the existence of mind-independent moral facts and the latter of mind-dependent moral facts. Seriously, how do you not get this?

        Crude: And I said you had severe trouble getting away with thought at all. Severe trouble. Yeah, I think at the end of the day materialism collapses into eliminative views (which are inane – sorry) or non-materialism.

        Andy: I don´t have anything resembling a complete model of intentionality or rationality,

        Crude: That’s putting it lightly.

        Andy: Should I be “frank” and claim that you have no right to talk about a “will” because

        Crude: Who said anything about ‘right to talk about’? I’ve spent quite a while here defending an aggressive but specific claim about what’s rational and “good” for Andy 1 to do in his interactions with Deus A. I brought up the materialist’s mental problems (ha ha) as an aside, then went on to say those considerations aren’t really important here anyway.

        Andy: Being “frank” in such a way could be justified if your side actually has solutions which the other side lacks,

        Crude: Oh good, then I was using it in a justified way.

        No substance, no arguments, no solutions, but lots of naive bragging based on ignorance. Cute.

        No, we’re not. There’s a fact of the matter about what was originally meant by the Constitution documents in large part, though our ability to discover that original meaning may or may not be possible, and won’t necessarily be perfect. I mean, in my view anyway. I suppose if all meaning is derived then there’s no fact of the matter about anything at all.

        It was a very simple point really, divine command theory and ideal observer theory have virtually indistinguishable epistemological problems. You can “discover” what Jesus actually meant for every recorded statement he ever made and can “discover” how his commandments would have to be interpreted in a modern context? Cool! Is your method for doing that perfect and flawless? No? Aaaaand now you´re at the exact same point where an ideal observer theorist is – pragmatically there is virtually no difference, sounds good on paper, but in practice quite problematic.

        So do let me ask again – you’d concede that Andy 1 would be rational to do precisely what I said he’d be rational to do?

        Is this the change-your-mind-about-sodomy thingy again? Yeah, whatever – I maintain that it couldn´t be done, but if it could be done, it would be rational given most moral systems I´m aware of.
        But since you insist on bringing these weird counterfactuals up again and again, I´ll repeat my stupid counterfactual for the lulz – if church tradition would teach that you have to masturbate on the eucharist before consuming it, would you do it?

        And while you’re at it, I’d love to see that quote from Aquinas where you can explicitly target and kill innocent people “for the greater good”. It’s in the summa somewhere, I’m sure.

        Not what I claimed. I claimed that the killing of innocents is justifiable given thomistic morality. If you´d like, I rephrase that to “giving an order that entails that innocents will be killed by your subordinates is justifiable”. And if you disagree, then explain how Aquinas text on just wars can be interpreted to mean not either that, or, alternatively, to mean that no war was ever justified (and it would have been the morally right choice to let the Nazis win) and no war will ever be justifiable because the criteria for a war being justifiable are ridiculous, were never met by any army in the history of mankind, and will never be met by any army in the history of mankind because they have nothing to do with reality. If it is the latter, I´ll retract my point and substitute it by the charge that Thomistic morality is spectacularly useless (and that you most certainly wouldn´t be a Christian now given what would have likely happened had Hitler won and what the Nazis ultimately planned to do with christianity).

  11. And if you disagree, then explain how Aquinas text on just wars can be interpreted to mean not either that, or, alternatively, to mean that no war was ever justified

    So Aquinas is guilty until proven innocent?

    You made the claim. Make your case, because I don’t buy it.

    • So Aquinas is guilty until proven innocent?

      You made the claim. Make your case, because I don’t buy it.

      Hold on Andy – You’re the one making the claim here. Have you even quoted just war theory yet in this massive conversation? That’s a serious question, because I’ve missed it if you have.

      You have been claiming that you can use just war theory to justify making an order that you KNOW will lead to civilian deaths. I disagree – you can make an order that will quite POSSIBLY, in theory, lead to innocent civilian deaths, but you cannot make an order where you are absolutely sure that, based on your direct actions, civilians will die. These are important differences.

      When Obama orders one – ONE – drone strike, he risks innocent casualities. When Obama orders hundreds or even thousands of drone strikes, he guarantees that innocents will die, it is not a question of IF they die, it is only a question of how many will die. And whether Obama *allows* that civilians are targetted deliberately or not doesn´t change this fact at all – it would only affect how many civilians die.
      If Obama doesn´t know this, then he is an idiot, a complete and utter moron not even fit to run a McDonalds, much less a country. If Obama *does* know this, then he believes that the innocents that died as a consequence of his orders (and there are thousands of them based on drone strikes alone) had to be sacrificed. And Obama telling himself that he has no blood on his hands because he never gave an order along the line “fire some rockets into that crowd of civilians there!” would be cop out – a fairy tale that he tells himself to sleep better. He knew what would happen, he saw what happens, he keeps giving the orders, and he sacrifices innocent lives by the thousands.
      You *could* argue that those orders Obama gives are justifiable (although I don´t think that would be a view that is easy to defend), but you cannot argue that he is not *responsible* for these innocent people losing their lives – they died as a consequence of his orders, and he KNEW that many innocents will die.

      Do you disagree with any of what I just said? (if so, with what exactly?)
      The reason for why I´m saying this is, that the “important difference” you point out is, IMO, not that important. War kills innocents, no matter how noble your intentions are, no matter how much you try to avoid innocent casualties, if you order your subordinates to go to war – they WILL kill innocents, you can (and should) do your best to keep innocent casualties to a minimum, but there will be innocent casualties come hell or high water.

      I´ve quoted Aquinas criteria for when war is justifiable somewhere in this thread, but my point is not even based on what those criteria are, it´s only based on the fact that Aquinas believes that war CAN be justifiable in the first place – it is justifiable when his criteria (legitimate authority of the one ordering war + just cause + right intentions (or, alternatively, God directly ordering war himself)) are met.
      So the problem is, there never was a single war in the history of mankind where all sides did NOT cause innocent casualties, not during Aquinas lifetime, not before, not after. And there never will be such a war. And this means that you could either say that NO war that happened during Aquinas lifetime or before (except for those directly ordered by God according to the Bible) was justified according to Aquinas (he didn´t say or imply anything in this direction) and that no war after his death was justified either – it would have been the morally right choice to let the Nazis win.
      And the other option is, that you giving an order for which you KNOW that it will lead to innocent casualties caused by your subordinates, IS justifiable sometimes, if you have the authority + a just cause + the right intentions (or if God himself gives you the permission directly).

      • …they WILL kill innocents, you can (and should) do your best to keep innocent casualties to a minimum, but there will be innocent casualties come hell or high water.

        Sure, your responsibility, however, is to TRY to avoid them. Go to war knowing that, unfortunately, they’re going to happen, but do your best to avoid them.

        There is an important moral distinction there.

        Andy, can you prove your point? You made a claim, didn’t back it up, then asked us to disprove it. But that’s not how it works. Quote just war theory and use it to justify the claim “I am ordering my soldiers to go into a battle where civilians WILL be killed”. Not CAN be killed. Not MIGHT be killed. But WILL, BECAUSE of the attack that you have ordered.

        Now, going into war will, of course, cause casualties, but that doesn’t mean that throughout you shouldn’t be making an effort to avoid them whenever possible, and you certainly have a duty to avoid doing things that you know will kill innocent people.

        • Sure, your responsibility, however, is to TRY to avoid them. Go to war knowing that, unfortunately, they’re going to happen, but do your best to avoid them.

          There is an important moral distinction there.

          I don´t disagree at all. That is an important distinction (and I said so). But wholly irrelevant for the point I make.

          Andy, can you prove your point? You made a claim, didn’t back it up, then asked us to disprove it. But that’s not how it works. Quote just war theory and use it to justify the claim “I am ordering my soldiers to go into a battle where civilians WILL be killed”.

          But that is NOT my claim, my claim is that just war doctrine makes war permissible in the first place, under some circumstances. I don´t claim that just war doctrine allows you to give the order “see that marketplace full of civilians there? Throw some grenades into the crowd and shoot the survivors!”, I do claim that just war doctrine allows the “legitimate authority” (which nowadays would be President + congress) to order their army to go to war. That´s it. Order war, ANY war, and innocents will die – die as a consequence of the actions of your subordinates. That you never gave the order to deliberately look for innocents and kill them, and that you maybe were extra careful in doing whatever is humanly possible to prevent innocent casualties, is absolutely relevant – but not for the point I am making.
          Doing as much as is humanly possible to prevent collateral damage would be the right thing to do – but if you believe that this means you wouldn´t be responsible for the innocent casualties that happened as a consequence of your orders, or that you could not have known that innocents will die, no matter how careful you are, then you are simply wrong.

      • A little off-topic, I read the links to Feser´s blog that you provided and clicked on some of the embedded links, thus stumbling on this post here:
        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.de/2010/08/happy-consequentialism-day.html
        If you haven´t read this one before, it´s well worth reading, including the ensuing comment thread (well, there is one guy in the comments who seems to genuinely believe that killing non-christians is intrinsically better than killing christians, everything else being equal, and no one else seemed to find that even slightly objectionable, which I found a bit weird but what the hell).
        It´s about whether the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified and especially Feser himself and commenter David T. (but also many others) make excellent points. What is most interesting is how much disagreement there is about this question, within a community that is ideologically rather homogeneous (I guess it would be fair to say that virtually everyone involved in the discussion was a Catholic), and that this disagreement is not based on ignorance, but rather often on eminently sensible points. I´ve seen a similar discussion about the same issue with similar (often very sensible) disagreements on Randal Rauser´s blog, where most of the participants seemed to have been protestants and progressives. And I´ve seen a similar disagreement on the exact same issue on atheist blogs, with again the exact same eminently sensible points made by all sides.
        That is very telling I think. Many moral positions sound good on paper, but when a *real* challenge comes (and war might be biggest one), the right course of action is never obvious, not for the conservative thomist philosopher, not for the progressive evangelical theologian, not for the utilitarian atheist philosopher, not for anyone.

      • And one last point (because after re-reading, I think I expressed my point re just wars poorly).

        If you got the impression that I claim that modern catholic just war doctrine or it´s roots in Aquinas text on just wars, are wrong / evil / whatever – that wasn´t my point. Quite the opposite, I pretty much completely agree with the just war doctrine. Where we would disagree, I think, is not about what the true answer to the question “can war be morally justifiable?” would be, but rather about what that would actually *mean*.
        Given thomism, an action is deemed “good” only if it is “good” in all its aspects (at least afaict), meaning that you cannot do something evil to accomplish a greater good. Which is why I guess you didn´t like my comment that a just war according to Aquinas “sacrifices” innocents for the greater good – because the way I phrased this, I clearly implied that a just war entails evil deeds that are done because they are necessary to do what is morally right, which is clearly incompatible with thomism. And IF I were right, the philosophy would have an internal contradiction in this respect.

        Now, I guess we have to agree to disagree on whether it would be accurate to say that you are indeed “sacrificing innocents for the greater good” when you order war, *necessarily* so. No matter how careful you are in trying to avoid innocent casualties, they can only be minimized but they cannot be avoided, and every prince, king, president or general knew and knows that.
        When you observe an event like the rise of Nazi Germany, or the Rwandan genocide or any other kind of mass-scale atrocity you could imagine, and you could make (or influence) the decision of whether to send an army to war to stop these atrocities, then you WILL be (at least partly) responsible for the death and suffering of innocents in any case.
        Innocents will suffer and die if you do *not* send your army to war (a “sin by omission” if you like), and innocents will suffer and die if you *do* order war – you will have blood on your hands in either case. Damned if you do, damned if you don´t.

        Again, I do believe that there are correct moral answers to the question of whether to go to war or not in a given situation and which means are permissible and which are not (although that can be in practice next to impossible to know because of the extremely high amount of information and counterfactuals you have to consider – see the discussion re Hiroshima and Nagasaki above).
        What I do not believe is that the morally right choice is necessarily “good in every respect”. A just war is, I think, the perfect example for why this simply is not true, even if you have the right cause and the right intentions and do everything, literally everything that is humanly possible to avoid the death and suffering of innocents, you can still only minimize the death and suffering of innocents in war, but never avoid it completely. And how can that possibly be “good in every respect”? How is that not sacrificing innocents for the greater good?

      • Okay? Then we agree?

        Yeah, to a very large extent I guess we do agree.
        As I tried to clarify in this comment:
        https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7847
        I´m not crticizing the just war doctrine, I find it very reasonable (I have some quibbles but that would be nitpicking) and I´d agree with the criteria it contains for when a war is permissible / the morally right choice.

        Where I guess we disagree, is whether the morally right choice means NOT sacrificing innocents / doing something that is “good in every respect”. In other words, it´s not the moral conclusion I disagree with, it´s a disagreement about what true moral propositions are – according to thomism (again, afaict) an action cannot be good / the right thing to do, if it is not “good in every respect”. And I´d say that a “just war” is a prime example of an action that is the right thing to do, but *not* “good in every respect”.

      • I don’t think that’s quite right – there are things we can do that aren’t necessarily IMmoral, but also not exactly moral either – like, for example, eating a chocolate cake. You don’t need to, generally, to survive, and if you overeat it’s actually gluttony. But eating a single chocolate cake isn’t immoral.

        So yeah, I suppose we do agree on a lot. I have no problem conceding that, it’s actually a good thing I suppose. I guess I’m just not seeing the real point here. Okay, yeah, it’s possible to justify war and even the unfortunate death of innocents in certain circumstances. But that doesn’t mean it’s inconsistent with the idea of objective morality, just that indirectly causing the death of innocents (INdirectly) isn’t intrinsically immoral. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t intrinsically immoral things.

      • So yeah, I suppose we do agree on a lot. I have no problem conceding that, it’s actually a good thing I suppose. I guess I’m just not seeing the real point here. Okay, yeah, it’s possible to justify war and even the unfortunate death of innocents in certain circumstances. But that doesn’t mean it’s inconsistent with the idea of objective morality, just that indirectly causing the death of innocents (INdirectly) isn’t intrinsically immoral.

        Oh, I´m not saying that it is inconsistent with objective morality. And I do believe that there are objectively right answers to the question of whether a war is just, what means are permissible in war etc.pp. When it comes to the criteria for determining whether a war is just, I also agree with Catholic just war doctrine, almost completely.
        So, up to this point, we would be in complete agreement.

        What I would disagree with, is that the choice of ordering a “just war” is not merely the objectively right moral choice, but that it is also “good in every respect”. As I outlined in my earlier comments – I don´t believe that ordering your troops to go to war can possibly be “good in every respect”, even if you have the right intentions, the right cause and try everything that is humanly possible to avoid death and suffering of innocents, you will only be able to minimize it – at least some innocents WILL certainly suffer and die by the actions of your soldiers.

        So, I agree that sending your army to war can be the right and moral thing to do. I´m not disagreeing at all with that being objectively right. I´m only disagreeing with the “good in every respect” part – Aquinas says that an action cannot be good if it is not “good in every respect”, and if that would be true, then NO war can ever be justified IMO, because it is not possible to go to war without hurting and killing innocents – no matter how much you try to avoid.
        That is the nature of war – always was, always will be.

      • BTW, Dr. Feser is brilliant, and he completely converted me on the dropping of the bombs.

        I strongly lean towards Feser´s side on this issue as well, but I´m not completely decided. Japan in WWII was a very special case, especially because there rarely was an instance where the line between combattants / non-combattants and innocent (to the degree that humans can be “innocent”) / guilty were so blurred (*much* more blurred than they were in the war against Nazi Germany or in the “war” on terror for example), but also for many other reasons.

      • That an action isn’t expressly good doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It also doesn’t mean that there can’t be good reasons for doing something that’s not expressly evil.

        Let’s say civilians as unfortunate collateral damage is not inherently evil, and saving people from the Nazis is a good. On those grounds alone I’d say war is (assuming the rest of the criteria is there) justifiable.

      • Malcolm,

        I think one important thing to keep in mind when discussing things like Just War doctrine and A-T/Thomist views is that ‘intention’ and attempt plays a role in deciding the goodness of an action. You’re getting into this point as it stands, but I wanted to back it up a little bit.

        What may be going wrong here is that people are confusing acts intentionally undertaken with statistical results. You can probably say that every large urban center with a lot of public places has had rape, “Always has, always will.” But can you reasonably say that therefore one accepts and even wills rape by building a large urban center? I don’t think so, not on those grounds alone. Part of that is going to be because there will exist factors outside of your control with any given act – you’re asked to act in such and such ways with regards to the factors you can control, not the factors you can’t. Your attitude and approach with those factors in mind can matter as much, even more, than the ultimate results of the actions.

        Hopefully I’m coming across properly here.

      • That an action isn’t expressly good doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It also doesn’t mean that there can’t be good reasons for doing something that’s not expressly evil.

        Let’s say civilians as unfortunate collateral damage is not inherently evil, and saving people from the Nazis is a good. On those grounds alone I’d say war is (assuming the rest of the criteria is there) justifiable.

        I completely agree that saving people from the Nazis is good, but I strongly disagree on collateral damage.
        I do not accept that the death and suffering of innocents can be considered morally neutral – simply not “expressly good” but also not evil – innocents dying and suffering is evil.
        I can agree that it can be in some cases a necessary evil, but I cannot agree that it is not evil to begin with. IMO, the innocents that suffer and die as the consequence of some authority ordering a “just war” are being sacrificed for the greater good. And I think that classifying their death and suffering as merely “not expressly good” is in some sense even an insult to their memory, because if you classify it like this, then you have not just given an order that led to their suffering or death, you even refuse to acknowledge that it was a bad thing, a necessary evil but still an evil, that they had to suffer and die.
        But I guess that on this point we simply have to agree to disagree.

        But, as far as I can tell, even saying that innocent casualties were not good, but also not evil, would still lead to a contradiction with thomism, I´ll quote Aquinas:
        “Now it must be observed, as was noted above (Q[19], A[6], ad 1), that for a thing to be evil, one single defect suffices, whereas, for it to be good simply, it is not enough for it to be good in one point only, it must be good in every respect.”
        http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum154.htm
        If I get thomism right in this respect (and it is very well possible that I don´t), doesn´t a component that is not “expressly good” as you say, mean that war cannot possibly be justifiable unless you could avoid ALL collateral damage (i.e. in practice NEVER justifiable)?

      • crude,

        What may be going wrong here is that people are confusing acts intentionally undertaken with statistical results. You can probably say that every large urban center with a lot of public places has had rape, “Always has, always will.” But can you reasonably say that therefore one accepts and even wills rape by building a large urban center? I don’t think so, not on those grounds alone.

        But this is not analogous.
        1. In the case you describe, the guy building the urban center neither gives the rapist any orders nor could he have prevented the rapist from raping. When Obama orders a drone strike, it means just that – he gives the order, and this drone strike would simply not happen if he chooses to not give the order.
        2. I see your point regarding intent, and I don´t at all disagree that intent is relevant, but intent doesn´t absolve you of moral responsibility for the action you have chosen.
        3. Regarding statistical results, if we have two cases:
        a) the classical trolley problem – you have the choice of pulling a lever which would divert a trolley and lead to the death of one person, or do nothing and let the trolley kill five people.
        b) same problem as the previous one, except for the fact that many people will die for either outcome, you cannot possibly say how many – at best you can give an educated guess, but you can say with certainty that pulling the lever would lead to a significantly lower number of casualties (lets say dozens vs thousands).
        We could also choose a different moral dilemma and modify it in such a way that the only difference would be that you either know the exact outcome, or only the statistical outcome.
        The point would simply be – why should it be considered to be morally relevant that you know exactly who and how many will die instead of knowing it statistically? Assuming you would opt to not pull the lever given dilemma a), I cannot think of any popular moral view that would not entail that you would also not pull the lever in scenario b). Similarly, if you´d opt for pulling the lever in a), I cannot think of any moral position according to which you would not pull the lever in b).
        Therefore, I see absolutely no reason to consider precise knowledge about who + how many will die vs. statistical knowledge about who + how many will die, to be a category that would be in any way morally relevant (not for any moral position I´m aware of).
        Do you?

      • Andy,

        1. In the case you describe, the guy building the urban center neither gives the rapist any orders nor could he have prevented the rapist from raping. When Obama orders a drone strike, it means just that – he gives the order, and this drone strike would simply not happen if he chooses to not give the order.

        He could have prevented the rapist from raping in the urban center by not building the urban center to begin with, just as Obama could have prevented the death of the hypothetical innocents by not ordering the drone strike. You say ‘the guy building the urban center doesn’t give the rapist orders’, but Obama also doesn’t order his drone controllers ‘go kill those innocents’.

        Presumably. Giving him the benefit of the doubt here.

        2. I see your point regarding intent, and I don´t at all disagree that intent is relevant, but intent doesn´t absolve you of moral responsibility for the action you have chosen.

        I think that depends on what you mean.

        If hypothetical person X will kill hypothetical person Y unless I tell a lie, and I refuse to tell a lie… will you say I’m morally responsible for Y’s death?

        The point would simply be – why should it be considered to be morally relevant that you know exactly who and how many will die instead of knowing it statistically?

        In part because probable knowledge is the actual reality for human beings, and in this case we’re asking about what humans should do given the reality they find themselves in. I can make efforts, even desperate efforts, even unlikely efforts, to avoid and minimize harm in a given situation, there may be factors I am unaware of.

        See, that’s a real subtle problem with your A and B. You mention a lack of utterly certain knowledge at work in B as opposed to A, but in reality you have certain knowledge in both cases.

        Watch what happens when I reformulate your A to account for that.

        A) A trolley is careening towards 5 innocents on the tracks. If I pull the lever, it will careen towards 1 person on the tracks.

        B) A trolley will certainly kill 5 innocents, unless I pull the lever. If I do, 1 person will certainly die.

        Do you think these are the exact same account? Let’s further stipulate that both of these scenarios are empirically indiscernible between each other in reality.

      • He could have prevented the rapist from raping in the urban center by not building the urban center to begin with, just as Obama could have prevented the death of the hypothetical innocents by not ordering the drone strike. You say ‘the guy building the urban center doesn’t give the rapist orders’, but Obama also doesn’t order his drone controllers ‘go kill those innocents’.

        Presumably. Giving him the benefit of the doubt here.

        Obama could have prevented the drone from flying.
        Guy-who-built-the-urban-center could have prevented the building of the urban center. An urban center in which a rapist rapes someone.
        You think that is analogous?

        Lets take two different examples:
        1. John owns a gun shop and sells Jim a gun, legally.
        2. Jim is in a crowded marketplace, sees a very suspicious arabic looking guy with a backpack, and believes that there is a bomb in the backpack. So Jim pulls out his gun, fires six shots, and kills the guy + two bystanders.
        What would then be the appropriate interpretation, this one:
        – John could have stopped Jim from killing two innocent bystanders, period.
        or this one:
        – John could have stopped Jim from killing two innocent bystanders…. with the gun that he sold Jim.
        If you say there is no relevant difference between the two interpretations, I´d wager that there is no judge, no jury, no moral philosopher and no theologian, who would not disagree with you.

        Similarly, do you genuinely believe that some business guy who makes a deal with the government to sell them drones, has the exact same moral responsibility for the outcome of a strike with one of those drones as Obama has for giving the order for the strike?
        It would be true after all that the drone strike would not have happened had this guy not made the deal with government…. that is, would not have happened with the exact same drone.

        I think that depends on what you mean.

        If hypothetical person X will kill hypothetical person Y unless I tell a lie, and I refuse to tell a lie… will you say I’m morally responsible for Y’s death?

        Nope, X would be responsible for Y´s death. But if X is your subordinate and you order him to get on his B-52 and drop some bombs on target Z, thus killing civilians A, B and C. You could be responsible for the death of A,B and C (unless X went rogue and didn´t follow the orders you gave him).

        In part because probable knowledge is the actual reality for human beings, and in this case we’re asking about what humans should do given the reality they find themselves in. I can make efforts, even desperate efforts, even unlikely efforts, to avoid and minimize harm in a given situation, there may be factors I am unaware of.

        See, that’s a real subtle problem with your A and B. You mention a lack of utterly certain knowledge at work in B as opposed to A, but in reality you have certain knowledge in both cases.

        Watch what happens when I reformulate your A to account for that.

        A) A trolley is careening towards 5 innocents on the tracks. If I pull the lever, it will careen towards 1 person on the tracks.

        B) A trolley will certainly kill 5 innocents, unless I pull the lever. If I do, 1 person will certainly die.

        Do you think these are the exact same account? Let’s further stipulate that both of these scenarios are empirically indiscernible between each other in reality.

        Actually the same, no, pragmatically indistinguishable, yes (because you have defined it that way).
        But I don´t see how that even addresses my point. You said:
        “What may be going wrong here is that people are confusing acts intentionally undertaken with statistical results.”
        And I was asking why “statistical results” should be morally relevant.
        I´m also not really seeing where you are aiming with the “certain” knowledge thingy – technically, certain knowledge is never possible in any of those dilemmas, if the dilemmas involves you killing a guy by shooting him in the head, one could reply (but maybe he would survive! or but maybe the gun will misfire!) but that would be ridiculous.
        If you order your troops to go to war, you have quite a lot of uncertainty when it comes to collateral damage, you can make an educated guess where and how many civilians will die, but that´s it, but you can be as certain as is humanly possible that civilian casualties cannot be avoided.
        I thought that that is what you mean by “statistical knowledge”, but apparently, you mean something different. So what do you mean and how is it morally relevant?

      • Andy,

        Obama could have prevented the drone from flying.
        Guy-who-built-the-urban-center could have prevented the building of the urban center. An urban center in which a rapist rapes someone.
        You think that is analogous?

        I’m saying that according to your standards it seems to be analogous.

        Statistical certainty that immoral result X will take place? Check.
        Morally neutral or positive initiating action? Check.
        Particular results A will not take place if action is avoided? Check.
        Knowledge of the relevant factors? Check.

        I’m willing to grant that there are relevant differences between the two. But what are they? You tell me.

        I’m working with the standards you’re apparently giving me here, the reasoning you yourself are laying out, and I’m coming to a given conclusion. Don’t just tell me that the world would insist that there is a difference. Show me the difference, and show me the reasons.

        One thing your claims here have apparently hinged on critically is the certainty of negative results coming about due to otherwise benevolent/neutral intentional acts. That is what I am highlighting. Is this not fair?

        Similarly, do you genuinely believe that some business guy who makes a deal with the government to sell them drones, has the exact same moral responsibility for the outcome of a strike with one of those drones as Obama has for giving the order for the strike?

        Does ‘exact same moral responsibility’ talk matter here? Or just ‘culpability, they have done a wrong’?

        I am drawing a distinction between intentionally killing people, and engaging in acts that are likely to unintentionally kill people. Now, you seemed to be saying that there was no real distinction between these two in an important way. This is what I am attempting to shed some light on.

        At least for the purposes of the argument, building an urban center ‘always has, always will’ results in rapes in the urban center. Does a man who builds an urban center and who knows this effectively say ‘Well, I’m causing rapes’? Should he?

        Nope, X would be responsible for Y´s death. But if X is your subordinate and you order him to get on his B-52 and drop some bombs on target Z, thus killing civilians A, B and C. You could be responsible for the death of A,B and C (unless X went rogue and didn´t follow the orders you gave him).

        You say could be. How? What if civilians A B and C know Z is a target or a likely target? What if you’re not sure A B and C will be killed? What if you don’t even know A B and C are around, but you think it’s likely?

        I’m not seriously expecting an answer to every question. I am asking questions to illustrate a problem.

        Actually the same, no, pragmatically indistinguishable, yes (because you have defined it that way).

        You say pragmatically indistinguishable, but what do you mean?

        Are you telling me that the person at the lever will be subject to the exact same chain of reasoning in both situations, such that they’d need to make the same exact decision?

        I´m also not really seeing where you are aiming with the “certain” knowledge thingy – technically, certain knowledge is never possible in any of those dilemmas, if the dilemmas involves you killing a guy by shooting him in the head, one could reply (but maybe he would survive! or but maybe the gun will misfire!) but that would be ridiculous.

        Yep, it would be. However if you’re trying to save someone via an act that may damn well kill them, but the apparent alternative seems more likely to kill them, then – all else being equal – committing to the act may make sense. Knowing with certainty that the act may kill them would obviously change the results.

        If you order your troops to go to war, you have quite a lot of uncertainty when it comes to collateral damage, you can make an educated guess where and how many civilians will die, but that´s it, but you can be as certain as is humanly possible that civilian casualties cannot be avoided.

        Right, and you can arguably be as certain as humanly possible in the urban center situation too. But that’s not the beginning and the end of culpability. Arguably these factors alone don’t even get you to culpability.

        Here’s another way to think about it: while you can certainly choose your actions, you can’t choose each and every result of your actions. You’re not even aware of them in many cases. So long as your actions are morally right and reasonable, it may well be a mistake – a grave mistake – to even consider yourself as authorizing the immoral acts that you do not intend and, in fact, are trying or would try to avoid however you could.

        I think you’re wrongly turning ‘statistical likelihood’ into ‘certainty’ or at least ‘culpability’ such that by engaging in act X which has the statistical potential to lead to undesirable result A, by engaging in act X you may as well be explicitly committing yourself to intentionally bringing act A about. I do not think this works, and my questions and examples are meant to illustrate that.

      • I’m saying that according to your standards it seems to be analogous.

        Statistical certainty that immoral result X will take place? Check.
        Morally neutral or positive initiating action? Check.
        Particular results A will not take place if action is avoided? Check.
        Knowledge of the relevant factors? Check.

        I’m willing to grant that there are relevant differences between the two. But what are they? You tell me.

        I’m working with the standards you’re apparently giving me here, the reasoning you yourself are laying out, and I’m coming to a given conclusion. Don’t just tell me that the world would insist that there is a difference. Show me the difference, and show me the reasons.

        I´m a little surprised here because what I laid out is not in any way idiosyncratic. In principle, every single one of us is part of many causal chains that led to morally evil actions. If one of the guys I went to school with is now a wife-beating lowlife, and the way he was bullied in school contributed to this – then I would have contributed to him beating his wife now even if I just participated once in bullying him in school, in a very minor way, and even if that were just an *extremely* minor contribution to why he now is a wife-beating lowlife, I´d still be part of the causal chain.
        And in such a manner, every single one of us has contributed to evil stuff that is happening, even if our contributions are vanishingly small.
        That is universally recognized to be true, and that is the reason for why every legal system has a concept like what we would call a “proximate cause” (if not explicitly, then implicitly).
        It´s the sine qua non principle – a cause that “produces particular, foreseeable consequences without the intervention of any independent or unforeseeable cause” (copy-pasted from the legal dictionary).
        That´s what needs to be a given for you to be held legally responsible for what you did. Whether it is relevant for whether you are morally responsible depends on what your moral views are – if you wouldn´t be given your moral views, I´d wager that they are far detached from reality.
        Do you disagree with any of that? If you don´t, why did you expect that I am using some idiosyncratic standards here instead of the obvious one?

        I am drawing a distinction between intentionally killing people, and engaging in acts that are likely to unintentionally kill people. Now, you seemed to be saying that there was no real distinction between these two in an important way. This is what I am attempting to shed some light on.

        Then you got the wrong impression. I´m totally on board with this distinction.
        a) you give your soldiers the order to throw some grenades into a crowded marketplace full of civilians because you are bored and want to see some action vs, b) you giving the order to bomb enemy supply lines, expecting that this will dramatically shorten the war and save countless lives, and you don´t deliberately target any civilians, but know that this will kill at least some – is there a relevant distinction to be made here?
        Of course there is, an extremely big one. But I 100% disagree with the notion that you are not responsible at all in b) because you didn´t target civilians and didn´t want to kill them, intent isn´t magic – you gave the order, you knew that some collateral damage cannot be avoided, you are responsible. You might have made the morally right choice, but you still have blood on your hands. And you also would have blood in your hands if you would not have given the order – damned if you do, damned if you don´t. And if you are not ready to take the responsibility, knowing that there is no way to give orders in war without bloodying your hands, then you shouldn´t be in a position to give such orders.

        Right, and you can arguably be as certain as humanly possible in the urban center situation too. But that’s not the beginning and the end of culpability. Arguably these factors alone don’t even get you to culpability.

        Sine qua non – see above.

        Here’s another way to think about it: while you can certainly choose your actions, you can’t choose each and every result of your actions. You’re not even aware of them in many cases. So long as your actions are morally right and reasonable, it may well be a mistake – a grave mistake – to even consider yourself as authorizing the immoral acts that you do not intend and, in fact, are trying or would try to avoid however you could.

        And I would completely agree. If a handful of your soldiers committed war crimes – say, raping some civilian women, and you did everything you could do prevent this, you didn´t authorize the war crimes in any way, shape or form. If a child dies from a ricochet bullet fired by one of your soldiers, then you didn´t order this child to be killed. And so on and so forth. 100% agreement.
        Yet, you know that this will happen when you order your troops to go to war, and you know that you can only minimize this stuff from happening, never prevent it. And with great power comes great responsibility.

        I think you’re wrongly turning ‘statistical likelihood’ into ‘certainty’ or at least ‘culpability’ such that by engaging in act X which has the statistical potential to lead to undesirable result A, by engaging in act X you may as well be explicitly committing yourself to intentionally bringing act A about. I do not think this works, and my questions and examples are meant to illustrate that.

        Key part here is the “as well be” – this is inaccurate. I completely agree with the distinction you make. I completely agree that given orders that lead to such results could be objectively right moral choices. Where I disagree is that the death and suffering of innocents as a consequence of your order, – again, fully granting that the order was the objectively correct moral choice – is not an evil, a necessary evil but still an evil, a sacrifice for the greater good. I know that you don´t agree with this (and if I understand thomism correctly in this respect, then you cannot agree with this) – so here we simply have to agree to disagree I guess.

      • Andy,

        Do you disagree with any of that? If you don´t, why did you expect that I am using some idiosyncratic standards here instead of the obvious one?

        We’re talking past each other, because I don’t see what in your reply constitutes an answer to the question I gave. Yes, I understand proximate causes. The legal considerations for assigning culpability are all well and good – but they’re not really relevant here, and they’re not always so clear-cut besides.

        So please – I asked a question. Insist that the answer, the critical distinctions, are as clear as day. But what I want is an answer about the relevant differences between the two examples I gave.

        Then you got the wrong impression. I´m totally on board with this distinction.
        a) you give your soldiers the order to throw some grenades into a crowded marketplace full of civilians because you are bored and want to see some action vs, b) you giving the order to bomb enemy supply lines, expecting that this will dramatically shorten the war and save countless lives, and you don´t deliberately target any civilians, but know that this will kill at least some – is there a relevant distinction to be made here?

        Not the sort of distinction I’m asking about. Instead, it’s closer to this:

        a) You order your soldiers to throw a grenade into a building where enemy soldiers have holed up. You realize that there is, in fact, a family inside of that building as well. You realize that this act puts them at risk. Their well-being is a concern – perhaps you’re hoping the flee, that they do not stay near the soldiers, that if they’re harmed you can help them, etc. Perhaps you even call out to them to flee.

        b) You order your soldiers to throw a grenade into a building where enemy soldiers have holed up. You are aware of the family’s presence. You’ve calculated that if they die it’s a net gain so long as you kill the soldiers.

        But I 100% disagree with the notion that you are not responsible at all in b) because you didn´t target civilians and didn´t want to kill them, intent isn´t magic – you gave the order, you knew that some collateral damage cannot be avoided, you are responsible.

        Responsible in some broad sense as being part of the chain of events that may lead to that result? Yes. Responsible as in ‘blood on your hands’? No, that’s not nearly as clear-cut. The existence of the former chain does not establish the actuality of the latter claim. More below.

        You might have made the morally right choice, but you still have blood on your hands. And you also would have blood in your hands if you would not have given the order – damned if you do, damned if you don´t.

        And here I disagree. You’re treating being involved in that chain of events as sufficient for saying ‘you have blood on your hands’, and this is precisely why I asked this question: “If hypothetical person X will kill hypothetical person Y unless I tell a lie, and I refuse to tell a lie… will you say I’m morally responsible for Y’s death?”

        Now, you said no, I’m not responsible. If you mean ‘you’re not responsible, but you have blood on your hands’? No, I think otherwise. Hypothetical X has no blood on their hands whatsoever, according to the facts laid out, all else being equal.

        “Blood on your hands” implies moral culpability and moral deficiency – having done a wrong.

        Sine qua non – see above.

        Same response.

        And I would completely agree. If a handful of your soldiers committed war crimes – say, raping some civilian women, and you did everything you could do prevent this, you didn´t authorize the war crimes in any way, shape or form.

        But you’d have blood on your hands if you were responsible for placing soldiers in a zone with civilian women, knowing this was a possibility?

        Yet, you know that this will happen when you order your troops to go to war, and you know that you can only minimize this stuff from happening, never prevent it. And with great power comes great responsibility.

        That’s a reference to duty, not blame.

        Where I disagree is that the death and suffering of innocents as a consequence of your order, – again, fully granting that the order was the objectively correct moral choice – is not an evil, a necessary evil but still an evil, a sacrifice for the greater good.

        Not every evil causally related to an act I engage in is an evil I am culpable for, chose, or I have blood on my hands for. To sacrifice someone for the greater good, I must do that – sacrifice them. And sacrifice is inextricably tied up with intention.

        Sacrificing someone for the greater good means exactly that: sacrificing them, deciding to kill them because you want to achieve a greater good. But taking an act that carries risks, risks you try to minimize or avoid, is not sacrificing someone for the greater good.

        Intention matters, here as well as in law.

      • Not every evil causally related to an act I engage in is an evil I am culpable for, chose, or I have blood on my hands for. To sacrifice someone for the greater good, I must do that – sacrifice them. And sacrifice is inextricably tied up with intention.

        Sacrificing someone for the greater good means exactly that: sacrificing them, deciding to kill them because you want to achieve a greater good. But taking an act that carries risks, risks you try to minimize or avoid, is not sacrificing someone for the greater good.

        Intention matters, here as well as in law.

        Lets take Obama´s drone war again. I´ll accept for the sake of the argument that Obama did not once deliberately target civilians.
        Now, when his drone strikes blow up, say, a wedding party, again, as they have done already eight times (at least once deliberately afaict), or actually blow up the intended target – a guy who was the cook of the cousin of a friend of bin Laden´s driver (i.e. a terrorist with “virtual certainty”) + a dozen bystanders, then we will hear that the collateral damage was an “unforeseeable tragedy” or some crap like that.
        Fuck that noise. Tragedy? Hell yes. Unforeseeable? Yeah right…. That would be like a guy who drives drunk every day, kills hundreds of pedestrians by running them over with his car, and insists that he never intended to kill any of them, it was just a tragic accident, and he could not possibly foresee that this would happen if he drives drunk every day – it would have been a ridiculous excuse the first time, and certainly a lie if he repeats the same stupid excuse for every pedestrian he kills after the first couple ones.
        It´s not unforeseeable, it´s completely foreseeable – Obama knows that this will happen and he gives the orders anyway. And Obama is the sine qua non of the innocents suffering and dying as the consequence of his order to give the strike. For any given strike, he *might* have made the morally right choice (he certainly did everything but that IMO but I´ll grant it for the sake of the argument), but their blood is still on his hands, and calling their deaths “unforeseeable” is like first sacrificing them and then literally pissing on their graves, it wouldn´t be any less insulting to their memory and their families.

        Intention matters, sure, never disagreed with that. Deliberately targetting civilians to, say, demoralize the enemy, has to be distinguished from giving orders for which you know that they will cause some collateral damage, but for which you do your best to minimize it. But saying that because you didn´t have the intention to maim and kill civilians, you therefore cannot possibly be responsible for that when it happens, is something I completely disagree with – you gave the orders, you knew the risks, you are the sine qua non, you are responsible. And responsible doesn´t necessarily mean that you did something morally (or legally) wrong, it just means that you are “responsible” – that´s what the word “responsible” means, you were the essential cause for what happened, and you were so knowingly and willingly.

        Regarding “sacrificing someone”, here we just have to agree to disagree, you say “But taking an act that carries risks, risks you try to minimize or avoid, is not sacrificing someone for the greater good” – and I completely disagree, if based on your best intelligence you can say that the planned attack on a legitimate target (say, enemy supply lines) will involve an expected 50±10 civilian casualties, and you thought about it a lot, considered many alternative attack plans, and came to the informed conclusion that 50±10 is the minimal possible risk for civilian casualties if you want to attack the enemy supply lines with the means at your disposal.
        If you give the order, and your order leads to 33 killed and 5 maimed civilians (i.e. you got lucky and the casualties are lower than expected), then saying that you did not sacrifice those people because you “didn´t intend to kill them” and because you “tried to minimize and avoid the risks” etc.pp. would just be a word game to me.
        Note again that I don´t disagree AT ALL with the notion that intent and risk minimization and so on and so forth is relevant, it is absolutely relevant, legally and morally.
        We just seem to disagree on the semantics of the phrase “necessary evil” and the word “sacrifice”.

      • Andy,

        Lets take Obama´s drone war again. I´ll accept for the sake of the argument that Obama did not once deliberately target civilians.
        Now, when his drone strikes blow up, say, a wedding party, again, as they have done already eight times (at least once deliberately afaict), or actually blow up the intended target – a guy who was the cook of the cousin of a friend of bin Laden´s driver (i.e. a terrorist with “virtual certainty”) + a dozen bystanders, then we will hear that the collateral damage was an “unforeseeable tragedy” or some crap like that.
        Fuck that noise. Tragedy? Hell yes. Unforeseeable? Yeah right….

        The specific situation may well have been unforeseeable, and that may be exactly what was meant by that claim. I think you’re mixing up ‘unforeseeable according to a broad model’ and ‘unforeseeable in this specific event’.

        That would be like a guy who drives drunk every day, kills hundreds of pedestrians by running them over with his car, and insists that he never intended to kill any of them, it was just a tragic accident, and he could not possibly foresee that this would happen if he drives drunk every day – it would have been a ridiculous excuse the first time, and certainly a lie if he repeats the same stupid excuse for every pedestrian he kills after the first couple ones.

        The man is certainly guilty of something in that situation, assuming he’s mentally sound. He’s certainly unfathomably careless. Again, you’re taking the average expectation and swapping it over to the specific issue. In every single accident he has, it’s entirely possible it was not his intention to kill anyone at all. He could have been actively trying not to do that.

        You think he’d be charged with murder if this happened? He’d be charged with something, alright – but did he murder?

        It´s not unforeseeable, it´s completely foreseeable – Obama knows that this will happen and he gives the orders anyway. And Obama is the sine qua non of the innocents suffering and dying as the consequence of his order to give the strike.

        And what happens during the drone strike where the only people who die are enemy combatants – which has also happened? It was totally forseeable, but… just didn’t happen?

        But saying that because you didn´t have the intention to maim and kill civilians, you therefore cannot possibly be responsible for that when it happens, is something I completely disagree with – you gave the orders, you knew the risks, you are the sine qua non, you are responsible. And responsible doesn´t necessarily mean that you did something morally (or legally) wrong, it just means that you are “responsible” – that´s what the word “responsible” means, you were the essential cause for what happened, and you were so knowingly and willingly.

        If you’re talking about a form of responsibility that isn’t necessarily legally or morally responsible, okay then. But I already granted that if you’re simply talking about being involved in the causal chain.

        would just be a word game to me.

        You can disagree, and that’s fine. My goal in this wing of the conversation has been to illustrate the differences – which I think are fundamental and multiple – between a thomistic view and a utilitarian. Keep in mind I am not saying no one can be blamed for those deaths. But I think you are drawing the line to the wrong individual.

        We just seem to disagree on the semantics of the phrase “necessary evil” and the word “sacrifice”.

        I think it’s far more than semantics.

      • crude,

        I think you’re mixing up ‘unforeseeable according to a broad model’ and ‘unforeseeable in this specific event’.

        I´m not mixing them up, I acknowledge the difference, always did – but I´m reiterating the point I made earlier (here: https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/becoming-a-new-atheist/comment-page-1/#comment-7863 ) that I see absolutely no morally relevant difference between precise and statistical knowledge – no relevant difference between “I´ll this guy over there die to save those ten guys here” , or “I´ll let those 30±5 guys there die to save those 1000±250 guys here” – regarding the outcome.
        That you didn´t *want* to kill anyone can be true in both cases, that you *tried* everything in your power to avoid the death / suffering of everyone can be true in both cases, that you made the morally right choice can be true in both cases, that you did nothing wrong legally can be true in both cases etc.pp.
        You keep on pointing out that I don´t acknowledge this difference or keep mixing I up, and I keep explicitly acknowledging the difference – all I say is that you are sacrificing people in both cases.

        You think he’d be charged with murder if this happened? He’d be charged with something, alright – but did he murder?

        Not my point. My point was that this is absolutely foreseeable – drive drunk every day and the question is not if you kill anyone but only how many you kill (and before you reply for the dozenth time that he didn´t murder / didn´t intend to kill anyone – yes, he didn´t, and I never said he did and keep on acknowledging this difference every single time you point it out).

        And what happens during the drone strike where the only people who die are enemy combatants – which has also happened? It was totally forseeable, but… just didn’t happen?

        “But I drove drunk every night, for an entire month, and never killed anyone until today, all those days where I did not run anyone over….. just didn´t happen?”
        If the odds of killing at least one innocent bystander in an urban area are on average around 33%, then you might not kill any innocent bystander for any given order, if you order one thousand strikes in urban areas, then it is no longer a question IF you kill innocents or not – only a question of how many (and unless your intelligence sucks completely, you could even make good educated guesses about how many you will kill with your orders). The law of large numbers turns “unforeseeable” into “foreseeable”.

        You can disagree, and that’s fine. My goal in this wing of the conversation has been to illustrate the differences – which I think are fundamental and multiple – between a thomistic view and a utilitarian.

        I know, and in this particular respect, in questions about whether war can be legitimate, which means can be permissible in war, which targets can be legitimate in war and so on and so forth, the differences are semantics. Nothing more. The utilitarian makes all the same distinctions that you make when it comes to legality (no surprise here given that your moral views do not change the law), the utilitarian acknowledges all the distinctions that you point out regarding intent, trying to avoid casualties, and so on and so forth – and those distinctions would be absolutely relevant for answering the question of whether any given action was morally right given utilitarianism (or pretty much any other moral view except for moral nihilism). We would arrive at the exact same conclusions about whether war can be permissible in principle, and we´d very often agree about much more particular questions like whether the nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable and so on and so forth. The differences might well be “fundamental and multiple”, but me calling the morally right choice here a “sacrifice for the greater good” or “the right action which involves a necessary evil and is certainly not “good in every respect”” – is just semantics.
        Sacrificing something or someone means giving up something that is valuable. If you make a *decision* that foreseeably leads to the death of 100±15 innocents, then you “give up” (because it was a decision and you thus could have opted to not do it) something that is valuable, unless you consider the lives of innocents to not be valuable. No intent to kill any of the 100±15 innocents and utmost care in trying to keep this number as low as humanly possible is 100% relevant for the morality and legality of what you did, but has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you are sacrificing them or not. You are, that´s what the word means – and if you disagree with that, then we have a semantic dispute here, nothing more. We also completely disagree about what the exact ontology of true moral propositions is, but re “sacrificing” – this is just a semantic dispute, you don´t want to call it a “sacrifice”? Then don´t, it´s still just a word game to me.

  12. I do not accept that the death and suffering of innocents can be considered morally neutral – simply not “expressly good” but also not evil – innocents dying and suffering is evil.

    Okay, at least we’ve pinpointed the specific source of the disagreement. I’d make the distinction here between a moral evil and what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, inevitable evil. I don’t really like that term much because it doesn’t fit exactly what I’m trying to explain, so I’ll try to clarify what I mean.

    Innocents dying is evil in the sense that we’d hope it would never happen. But innocents dying as a result of an action that’s not intended to kill civilians, even if it happens as a result, is not necessarily, morally, wrong.

    • Okay, at least we’ve pinpointed the specific source of the disagreement. I’d make the distinction here between a moral evil and what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, inevitable evil. I don’t really like that term much because it doesn’t fit exactly what I’m trying to explain, so I’ll try to clarify what I mean.

      Innocents dying is evil in the sense that we’d hope it would never happen. But innocents dying as a result of an action that’s not intended to kill civilians, even if it happens as a result, is not necessarily, morally, wrong.

      If I understand that correctly, then it could be that we are actually in complete agreement here. Given a just war – right cause, right intentions, legitimate means, as much care as is humanly possible to avoid collateral damage etc.pp. (and further assuming for the sake of the argument that we know that all of these conditions are fulfilled with certainty), then I´d agree that ordering this war is objectively not morally wrong. And I´d call the innocents that suffered and died as a consequence of the order a necessary evil.

      But I´d also say that “necessary evil” or “inevitable evil” here could be substituted by “sacrifice for the greater good” – and the meaning would stay identical. If you´d agree with that as well, then we agree 100%. But if you don´t (which I would suspect), then I guess that this is a disagreement that we cannot resolve – because while we agree about the moral conclusion, we arrive at the conclusion based on different premises about what “goodness” (for example) *means*. And given that, we will very often be able to agree about whether a moral proposition is true or not, but we will not agree about the exact nature / the ontology of moral propositions (given my worldview, moral propositions can be objectively true or false, but a phrase like “intrinsically evil” for example would be meaningless – because I cannot assign a moral status to something abstract, I assign a moral status to concrete actions only). So, unless one of us were to adopt different premises on which our moral views are based, this would be an issue that we will necessarily disagree about. But the world would be boring without at least some disagreement, wouldn´t it?😉

      • …we arrive at the conclusion based on different premises about what “goodness” (for example) *means*.

        Yep. Thomism and consequentialism simply rely on different premises to work.

  13. “Now it must be observed, as was noted above (Q[19], A[6], ad 1), that for a thing to be evil, one single defect suffices, whereas, for it to be good simply, it is not enough for it to be good in one point only, it must be good in every respect.”

    I think again there’s a distinction to be made between moral evil and what I clumsily call inevitable evil.

  14. Here, Andy, is where I think you’re wrong:

    Then don´t, it´s still just a word game to me.

    I (hypothetically) am a libertarian, in favor of allowing the use of lethal force for self-defense due to the principle of total and complete personal autonomy.

    You are a communist, and you are in favor of allowing the use of lethal force for self-defense because you believe that only the government has the right to decide who gets harmed, and if one decides to take matters into their own hands it is the responsibility of the citizenry to get rid of the threat to government stability.

    (That was totally made up, I have no idea if a communist would agree with that reasoning or not, but that’s not really my point – bear with me.)

    Both people come to the exact same conclusion: Society should allow lethal force for self-defense. But the worldviews are totally opposite.

    The point: Semantics matter.

    • Ah, but note what my “….just a word game…” referred to.
      I´m not saying that the worldviews are the same or only differ wrt semantics, they´re certainly not the same. My “…just a word game…” only referred to the usage of the word “sacrifice” (or the phrase “necessary evil”).
      Specifically, for a situation where we´d agree that the morally right choice is to give an order which foreseeably leads to the death of 50±10 innocents, you absolutely would have “sacrificed” those people by giving the order IMO, and this is the disagreement that I called a mere semantic dispute – crude (and I guess you as well) would disagree with the usage of the word “sacrifice” in this context, but the reason for the disagreement doesn´t seem to be based on any disagreement about the substance but rather on somewhat different understandings of what the word means, hence a semantic dispute.

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